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The Women’s Professional Rodeo Association has cited the Fallon County Fair and Rodeo committee as the best Large Rodeo of the year.

The announcement was made Nov. 2 in Colorado Springs when the WPRA announced its 2020 Committee and Contract Awards.

The winners will be recognized at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

In addition to Fallon County Fair and Rodeo getting the large award, the Killdeer Mountain Roundup Rodeo (ND) won the medium award and the Buffalo Stampede in Kadoko (SD) won the small rodeo award.

According to the WPRA announcement of the awards, the rodeo committees were described as the “backbone of the rodeo industry.”

“That was never more apparent during the 2020 rodeo season as we all dealt with the challenges of COVID-19. Without the hardworking rodeo committees, the industry would have had a hard time existing,” the release explained.

Among the challenges was the early shutdown of RodeoHouston in March. “The Cave Creek (AZ) Rodeo Days was the first committee to kick open the chutes at the end of May.” That prompted the WPRA to recognize that committee for getting the rodeo business back and earned them the Outstanding Rodeo Committee Partner Award, they explained.

Among the other awards announced by the WPRA was Bob Tallman as announcer of the year. He previously won the award in 1998. He also has won the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association announcer of the year award 10 times. He also was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 2004. Tillman is also slated to be honored this year by the ProRodeo Hall of Fame with the Legend of ProRodeo Award.

It is not the first time that the Fallon County Fair and Rodeo has won an award. The rodeo also has won the Montana PRCA Circuit Award for the best large rodeo three years straight and it also won the WPRA large rodeo award in 2017.

According to the WPRA, in order to compete in the large category, it has to have at least a $10,000 purse for the event.

At the 94th annual rodeo when Fallon County got its first win, there was $15,000 in added money in barrel racing, tie down roping and single steer roping.

At the time, the 2017 Rodeo Director, Jerrid Geving, said that they agreed to pick three events. “We wanted to feature the barrels as one of them. The women work just as hard and travel just as many miles as the cowboys,” he said.

The Fallon County Fairgrounds celebrated the rodeo winning the award on Facebook recently. “We love including the women at the Fallon County Fair & Rodeo every August. Congratulations to all award winners that were announced. The Barrel racing and Breakaway roping has been top notch. It’s amazing to watch the horse power ridden by some devoted women to their sport that make the trip to our little southeastern town year after year to compete. Thank you Ladies.”

According to Shyla Hadley, it was a surprise. “We were super glad just to have a rodeo in the first place.

“This will be the fourth time we have won that award. We won the large committee of the year in 2019,” she added. “It is based on turnout and quality.”

Also competing in the large rodeo division for Cody Stampede (WY), Ft. Worth Stock Show and Rodeo (TX), Gooding Pro Rodeo in Idaho and the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo (TX).

According to current fair board member and rodeo director Eddie Coulter, it wasn’t really a surprise. “We are always hopeful. We try to put on the best rodeo that we can. It is always just a bonus when you get recognized and win an award. It is the second time that we have won this award in the last four years.”

The Fallon County Fair and Rodeo won the Montana PCRA Circuit award a year ago, he added. “We won’t know on this one until January, I think we should be in the running for Montana for sure.”

There was a reason Coulter believes that has helped Fallon become so successful. “We have equal money in all the events. That is a big deal. Nobody gets cheated. Everybody gets the same prize money,” he said. “That is one of the better things.”

Fallon also is offering breakaway roping to the women competitors, Coulter explained. “Not every rodeo has breakaway roping for the ladies. That is something we have added for the last couple of years.

“It is getting more and more popular.”

There also was a strong regional flavor to the small, medium and large awards with the WPRA, he said, noting that the small and medium award winners were from South Dakota and North Dakota. “This part of the region did really well this year.”

In addition, some of the Baker competitors have gone on to do well at the nationals, Coulter added. “It is towards the end of the season so if they win in Baker, sometimes it puts them over to be in the national finals rodeo.

“If you look at the barrel racing results this year six out of the top seven girls in the barrel racing are going to compete in nationals finals,” he said.

The 2020 edition of the rodeo was affected by the pandemic, Coulter explained. “It had lots of impact on planning, but it really helped us at the end. We were able to have our rodeo. So with so many rodeos being canceled this year, everybody tried to get here.”

It helped in Baker. “We were the biggest rodeo to finish off the year. Hopefully, we don’t have to go through that (COVID-19) again, but you never know.”

One change that is already in the works for the 2021 edition of the Fallon County Fair and Rodeo, Coulter said. The rodeo will be expanded to three days instead of two. There will be three rodeo performances – on Thursday night, Friday night and Saturday afternoon. “It will give them an extra day to get in here and out of here and compete. We are looking forward to that.”

Coulter also attributed the success of the rodeo to the Fallon County commissioners, our local sponsors and volunteers. Those three are what makes it happen.

“I can put together a plan, but without them – those are three key components,” he explained.

There are five on the Fallon County Fair Board and I have got about another five to 10 for volunteers, so it is a pretty small group,” Coulter said. “But they all work their butt off and know what to do and do a great job of doing it.

“Without them, it wouldn’t be happening,” he added.

The fairground officials also announced that it will be hosting the 2021 Montana High School Rodeo Championships from June 7 through June 12.

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