To say it’s been a crazy year in rodeo is an understatement. Multiple rodeos, big and small, have been canceled because of Covid-19. Each week, it seems like another rode bites the dust.
At no time has this fateful phenomenon been more obvious than the weeks surrounding the Fourth of July weekend, a busy period referred to as “Cowboy Christmas,” a reference made to the big monies available at the 30 or so rodeos annually contested in early July.
Professional rodeo cowboys and cowgirls who would typically spend a 10- or 12-day period on the road often doubling up with day and night performances stretching anywhere from Calgary to St. Paul, Oregon, to Mobridge.
One of the rodeos remaining on the 2020 Cowboy Christmas schedule, however, is the classic Belle Fourche Black Hills Roundup Rodeo celebrating it’s 101st edition this summer.
Rapid City’s Shane O’Connell was one of the bareback riders on hand for Friday night’s 3rd performance in quest of some the bigger paydays available on the reduced schedule.
“It’s kind of a weird Fourth run to be honest. Last year I think I went to 11 rodeos in nine days and this year I’m going to three rodeos in three days,” said O’Connell prior to his Friday night appearance. “With so few choices, last night in Killdeer (N.D.) was my first rodeo in a week. With but three rodeos in six days, I picked the best three where I thought I would win the most money and will live with that.”
O’Connell had to settle for the third best ride on Friday night (84-points) as his bronc stumbled toward the end of the ride costing him a possible higher score. Canadian cowboy Orin Larson grabbed a share of the rodeo overall lead with an 88-point effort aboard Powder River’s Cactus Juice.
A new overall leader emerged from among a saddle bronc field featuring two world champions and six NFR competitors as rookie Riggin Smith (Winterset, Iowa), the reigning college champion, spurred Burch Rodeo’s Lily Stomper to 88.5-points.
For the second year in a row, an Elshere won a saddle bronc title as well. Talon Elshere, son of defending champion and 4X NFR qualifier JJ Elshere, won the Challenge of Champions, a saddle bronc event for high school up-and-comers, with an 80-point ride.
Jessica Routier, a two-time NFR barrel racer and Buffalo area rancher, also commented on the difference experienced by the restricted schedule in 2020.
“I’ve always gone to the circuit rodeos since I like going to the area rodeos, and then the last couple of years I’ve been trying to hit some of the other big ones, too,” Routier said. “That meant a lot of overnight drives since the Fourth was kind of a two-week stretch where the weekends kind of run into each other. It definitely isn’t anything like that this year. I think there are something like three other rodeos going on anywhere in the country right now and there is four in this circuit.”
Routier’s trip to Belle Fourche came up empty as well as her 17.63-second run came up short of pay window quality. The barrel racing overall lead did undergo a change on Friday, however as Oklahoma cowgirl, Dona Rule, spun through the cloverleaf in a blistering 17.02-seconds.
The breakaway roping event saw a leader change as well as Kayelen Helton (Stephenville, Texas) and Katie Mundorf (Mullen, Neb.) turned in 2.0-second runs in the morning slack.
In the traditional final event of the night, Powder River Rodeo’s rank pen of bulls dominated a qualify field of bull riders with but one qualified ride, an 84.5-second ride by Texas cowboy Foster McCraw, an effort that moved McCraw into second place in overall standings.
Black Hills Roundup Leaders through three performances:
Bareback riding: 1. Tim O'Connell & Orin Larson, 88 points.
Steer wrestling: 1. Tyler Waguespack, 3.4 seconds; Team roping: 1. Levi Simpson/Shay Dixon Carroll, 4.5 seconds.
Saddle bronc riding: 1. Riggin Smith, 88.5 points on Powder River’s Miss Valley.
Tie-down roping: 1. Cooper Martin, 7.7 seconds; Breakaway roping: Kayelen Helton & Katie Mundorf, 2.0-seconds.
Barrel racing: 1. Dona Rule, 17.02 seconds.
Bull riding: 1. Trey Kimzey, 85 points on Powder River Rodeo's No. 759e.
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