Xtreme Bronc Finals highlight of Central States Fair
Other Central States Fair events:
Longhorn measuring: Friday August 16, 4 p.m.
Longhorn sale: August 17, 10 a.m.
Northern Breakaway Championship: August 23
Ladies breakaway added to PRCA Rodeo: Wed., Fri. and Sat. night 7 p.m. (slack Sat. Aug. 24, 9 a.m.)
Youth shows: August 23-24Xtreme Broncs Finals ContestantsSubject to change Blackwell, Jade, Piedmont, SDBoore, Allen, Axtell, UTBrooks, Chase, Belgrade, MTCrawley, Jacobs, Boerne, TXCrawley, Sterling, Stephenville, TXCress, Brody, Stephenville, TXDiaz, Isaac, Desdemona, TXElshere, JJ, Hereford, SDFinlay, Jake, Goodwell, OKGarrett, Shorty, Dupree, SDGordon, Colt, Comanche, OKHarter, Bradley, Loranger, LAHay, Dawson, Wildwood, ABKruse, Jesse, Great Falls, MTPollock, Mitch, Winnemucca, NVScheer, Cort, Elsmere, NESmith, Tegan, Winterset, IASundell, Wade, Boxholm, IAThurston, Zeke, Big Valley, ABWanchuk, Kolby, Sherwood Park, ABWatson, Jake, Hudson's Hope, BCWright, Rusty, Milford, UTWright, Ryder, Beaver, UTWright, Spencer, Milford, UT
You never know where the next legend will come from. When it comes to saddle bronc riding, whoever it is, odds are good you can watch him ride on Thursday, August 22, in Rapid City during the Central States Fair.
It seems natural that the state that produced saddle bronc legends Casey Tibbs, Clint Johnson and the Etbauer brothers would be home to the first Xtreme Broncs Finals.
The single-event format, showcasing the best saddle broncs and riders in the country, is the culmination of a series of events has grown every year since it was first approved by the PRCA in 2016. This year’s Xtreme Broncs finals, with $50,000 added money, has the potential to make some dramatic changes to the PRCA world standings as cowboys compete for the final dollars to determine the National Finals Rodeo qualifiers.
The event pits 24 of the top bronc riders in the country—the top 12 in the PRCA standings, and the top 12 from the Xtreme Broncs tour—against the top broncs in the country.
The format is a long go, with all 24 riders, followed by a short-go featuring the top eight. Money is paid out in both go-rounds, with the champion also taking home a bronze by T.R. Chytka, of Casey Tibbs riding the Old Gray Mare. The original of the bronze is at the Casey Tibbs Rodeo Center in Fort Pierre, South Dakota.
Rorey Lemmel, a rodeo producer from Whitewood, South Dakota, was hired by Central States Fair to coordinate the event, which will be televised on CBS Sports. He grew up on a ranch near Mud Butte, South Dakota and has produced rodeos for 25 years, sometimes as many as 250 a year.
With the help of the Central States Fair staff and volunteers, and the Range Days Rodeo committee, Lemmel found sponsors to provide the $50,000 in prize money. “The community really stepped up,” Lemmel said. “Visit Rapid City saw the vision and the number of people it could bring to our community, plus the exposure the television coverage that will showcase our community. We’re starting to get calls from all over the U.S. and Canada. I don’t think people really understand how big this event is for this area. This is like the NFR for saddle bronc riders. Behind the NFR this is the biggest thing they’ll go to.”
Lemmel said the world champion saddle bronc, Lunatic From Hell, will be in the chute that night, along with other top broncs.
Ryder Wright is sitting number one in the PRCA world standings and is planning to be in Rapid City for the event, along with his brother, Rusty and uncle, Spencer. He’s looking forward to the opportunity to get on some good horses. He said he hasn’t been to many of the Xtreme Broncs events, but has liked the ones he’s been to. “I think they’re pretty cool. They bring together some good horses and some of the top riders.”
The stock is part of the reason they limit the contestant list to 24, Lemmel said. “When you get up in the mid-30s (for contestant numbers) it’s not as easy to put an even pen of horses together. This is a who’s who of the saddle broncs and riders.”
Producing an event that provides a great experience for the contestants, live audience and television audience is something of a balancing act, and Lemmel counts on his own experience and the help of a professional, experienced staff to make sure any issues that come up don’t affect the audience or contestant experience. “There’s a big difference between rodeos produced for a live audience and rodeos made for television. There’s a lot more things that have to happen at a certain pace for television.”
Lemmel will count on a dozen people with headsets to communicate and make the event run smoothly.
“You make a checklist of everything that could possibly go wrong. That includes Mother Nature,” Lemmel said. “You always have backup plans. We’ve made a list of what-ifs—the power goes out, you don’t have sound, if a horse falls and we have to give a couple re-rides. You always have your list of what you go to next.”
He also makes sure everyone knows their job, and is doing only their job. “Normally when a stock contractor goes to a rodeo he has to worry about the announcer, judges, who opens gates, the pickup men. That’s not on their plate here. Their primary concern is caring for the stock and helping with flanking and loading.”
The judges are provided by the PRCA, from a pool of about 12 judges they send to big events.
Instead of the usual two pickup men, Lemmel has arranged for three, so they can trade out their horses when necessary—usually every five or six broncs in a big arena—without stopping the action.
While the flag run to provide sponsor exposure is a time-honored tradition in rodeo, in this production the biggest outdoor video screen in the country will be playing commercials for the sponsors.
Some of the biggest names in rodeo entertainment will be in Rapid City for the event. Andy Stewart, “the voice of Cheyenne Frontier Days” will be announcing, and Loop Rawlins, known for his gun-spinning, trick roping and whip-cracking, as well as his Hollywood stunts, will provide the specialty act.
Lemmel is also looking forward to welcoming several VIPs to the event, including South Dakota governor Kristi Noem and several of the “top brass” from the PRCA. “All eyes are on it. It’s pretty cool to look down there and see all those people. We’ve got their attention and they’re coming to watch,” Lemmel said.