By Jean Schurman
A determined effort to make the Ravalli County Fair’s rodeo the best in the state paid off last week when the Northern Rodeo Association awarded the rodeo the best in the association. With 33 rodeos each summer, the association has a wide selection to choose from.
The selection is made by the cowboys themselves as well as a committee from the association. Several factors enter into this and the Ravalli County Rodeo has worked hard to build up all of these. The facilities are some of the best around and work is always ongoing to make them not only safer for the animals and the contestants but also more enjoyable for the spectators. The committee works closely with rodeo producer Dick Lyman to make sure everything runs smoothly.
In addition, sponsorship is huge for the rodeo. Big purses or prize money brings in the top competitors and so the committee and fair manager Deborah Rogala work hard to secure these sponsors and also to make sure the sponsors receive recognition for this contribution. Rodeo queens carry the sponsor flags into the arena between every event.
The rodeo committee also works hard to put on a good ‘show’ that is entertaining. It’s easy to see this is paying off. This year the stands were packed every night of the rodeo and the Bull-A-Rama. With a high-energy announcer that keeps the show rolling and top cowboys and cowgirls, the Ravalli County Fair rodeo is a showcase for western entertainment. This year, a new event was added. The stock saddle bronc competition that was held during the Bull-A-Rama kept everyone on the edge of their seats.
There was one other award that was given to the Ravalli County Fair rodeo, that of best ground. You may think that arena dirt is dirt but just ask any barrel racer and you will get a detailed answer of what makes ‘good ground.’ This year, the rodeo committee and fair board set about making the arena ground better.
Several years ago, due to a misunderstanding, the ground in the arena was scraped away down to the hardpan. When the ground was put back, the footing was not very good for speed events. In August of 2011, a group of barrel racers put on an event to raise money to help improve the ground. Then, in February, the rodeo committee put on the Cowboy Ball and earmarked some of the funds to go towards the improvement of the arena ground. Throughout the summer, the crew at the fairgrounds and a few volunteers have incorporated special sand into the ground so the footing is solid but not too hard. In addition, a regimented program of watering and working up the arena produced the ‘dirt’ that was voted best ground.