Fallon County wrapped up its second year hosting the Montana High School Rodeo Finals with a confirmation from the MHSRA to play host again next year. “It’s wonderful news,” said Fallon County Fairgrounds Manager Lani DeBuhr.
By Angel Wyrwas
Fallon County wrapped up its second year hosting the Montana High School Rodeo Finals with a confirmation from the MHSRA to play host again next year. “It’s wonderful news,” said Fallon County Fairgrounds Manager Lani DeBuhr. “This year went off flawlessly. After hosting the finals last year we knew what to expect in terms of volume of kids, expectations for registration, responsibilities for the arena, activities and vendors. With any event like this there are many moving parts that all have to work together to make it successful. And it always helps when there isn’t a tornado.” DeBuhr was referencing last year’s event that was interrupted by a violent storm and tornado sending everyone under the fairgrounds grandstands for shelter.
Actually the rodeo participants couldn’t have asked for better weather this year with lots of sunshine and just enough rain at night to keep the dust down. One hundred sixty five contestants came to give it their best and with them came horse trailers, campers, tents and approximately 300 horses.
Local contestants included Kathryn Jo Hede, Marmarth, ND- pole bending, barrel racing; Mattie Mastel, Marmarth, ND- pole bending, breakaway roping, team roping, barrel racing; Seth Mastel, Marmarth, ND- team roping; Quentin Wheeler, Baker- steer wrestling, tie down roping; Wyatt Gaskins, Baker- tie down roping, team roping. Gaskins also competed in the Boys Cutting and will be advancing to Nationals in mid July in Gillette, WY.
Wheeler went second in the first go, won the short go and finished the year 11th in the state for steer wrestling. In tie down roping (formerly known as calf roping) Wheeler went fourth in the first and second go and solid in the short go to end the year #3 in the state. He will be moving on to Nationals.
Mattie Mastel won the reACT breast collar for breakaway. reACT is Montana’s teen-led movement against Big Tobacco, sponsoring rodeo events and scholarships throughout the state. Sister/brother team Mattie and Seth Mastel finished 8th in the state for team roping.
After long days of roping, riding, wrestling and many scholarship interviews contestants were able to enjoy some evening activities. “Most activities include dancing,” said DeBuhr. “The kids just love to dance so we try to incorporate it into every day including a Cowboy Prom on Thursday night. Everyone comes spiffed up, the girls in their prom formals and all the guys in their jackets and ties. And no one is holding up the wall, they’re all dancing. It’s great to see.”
On Friday after lunch there was a Battle of the Districts involving some pretty inventive costumes. Contestants and some of their horses dressed up in holiday attire according to their MHSRA district. Holiday themes included Halloween, Easter, Valentines, July 4th, and the Ho, Ho, Ho District 5 winners.
Saturday was the Queen Coronation. The contestants spent part of two days earlier in the week competing for this years title. Current Miss High School Rodeo and Montana’s All-Around Cowgirl, Opal Harkins from Billings crowned Sierra Belvin from Reed Point as the new Rodeo Queen. Little cowgirls everywhere were delighted!
Contestants had access to many on-site vendors including food stands and trucks, two clothing, two western tack, cowboy hat and jewelry/purse vendors. “We try to cater to everyone’s needs,” said DeBuhr. “It costs a lot to put on an event like this but even with the money we pay out to provide things like a professional announcer, stock and judges, this is really a great money maker for the county. I hear so many times throughout the week how nice our facilities are, that the people here are friendly and the families are happy they are here. The rodeo contestants and families are really one big family and they draw everyone in.”
“A couple things that really stick out in my mind are how amazing our businesses are by supporting this event to make it even better,” said DeBuhr. “They held raffles, scheduled extra entertainment, and discounted and gave away products. Our businesses really went above and beyond.”
Maybe the most notable part of the Montana High School Rodeo Finals is the dedication of the volunteers that make putting on this event possible. “The Fair Board and the Rodeo Finals Committee members are here for weeks before and weeks after from sun up to sun down taking care of so many things,” said DeBuhr. “These people are super passionate about these facilities and their use. When I walk away from an event like this I’m blown away by the dedication of the volunteers, the many hours donated to achieve success. I’m also reminded how much can be accomplished when you work as a team. Great things for Fallon County.”