BELLE FOURCHE | The Black Hills Roundup rodeo received an early centennial birthday gift on April 17, when the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association announced the Roundup committee’s induction in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.
The Roundup, an Independence Day holiday staple for Belle Fourche and the Black Hills, will host its 99th annual rodeo this year on July 1-4, then get ready for the event’s 100th edition in 2019.
“It’s a feather in the cap, really cool, especially with our 99th this year and coming up on our 100th next year,” said Roundup committee chairman Clay Crago of the inclusion in the Hall of Fame.
“It doesn’t just pertain, in my mind, to the committee we have right now, it’s the committee for the last 99 years, that have been putting their heart and soul in the Black Hills Roundup to make it happen every year,” Crago said.
Crago also attributed the Roundup’s success to other contributors, including Hank and Lori Franzen of Wyoming-based Powder River Rodeo Company, which will also celebrate a milestone this year, 30 years of providing stock for the rodeo.
“The cowboys know they’re going to get on good horses and good bulls when they come,” Crago said.
“So, they’re in on it, and with good fans and good sponsors all around the Tri-State area, there’s so much that goes into the success of it,” he said.
The Black Hills Roundup owes its start to a patriotic event during America’s involvement in World War I, when 15,000 people gathered in a field in Belle Fourche to raise money for the war effort in 1918.
At that time, Belle Fourche was home to 1,410.
That first event was more of a demonstration of ranchhand skills, such as breaking wild horses, than what would be considered a rodeo today, Crago said.
The next year marked the first time a rodeo took place.
The rodeo, along with a parade and fireworks displays, bring huge throngs of visitors to Belle Fourche for what is considered one of the signature Fourth of July events in the Black Hills with estimates of 10,000-15,000 attending the parade during rodeo week in the town of about 6,000.
The historic rodeo can also boast of attention from a President of the United States, when Calvin Coolidge attended in 1927.
Other inductees to be enshrined at ceremonies in Colorado Springs on August 4 include team roping stars Speed Williams and Rich Skelton, bareback champion Deb Greenough, contract personnel recipient Leon Coffee, stock contractor Billy Minick, rodeo notable Walt Garrison, Women’s Professional Rodeo Association barrel racers Kristie Peterson, Billie McBride and a WPRA equine inductee, French Flash Hawk (Bozo).
In addition to the 10 inductees, former PRCA Chief Operating Officer Kay Bleakly will receive the Ken Stemler Pioneer Award.
That’s pretty good company for the Black Hills Roundup committee, which will join 28 other rodeo committees, 267 people and 34 animals in pro rodeo immortality.
“It’s just darn cool to be recognized by the Hall of Fame,” Crago said.