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Rodeo is a tradition throughout the U.S. — especially in the West. For cowboys and cowgirls, working on ranches, tending cattle and horses is a way of life.

Friendly competition out on the prairies and ranches eventually turned into an organized event called “rodeo,” which has been providing great entertainment for fans for decades. Many cities and towns in Montana hold annual rodeos, always drawing crowds that want to watch the excitement of competitors riding broncs and bulls or competing in the fast-paced timed events.

In 1940, the “Polson Roundup” first was held at the Polson Fairgrounds. This past summer, the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame gave Lester “Les” Powell Baldwin a Legacy Award for his role in creating the rodeo.

According to a biography on the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame website, “Local citizens volunteered their time to work alongside Les to construct an arena, grandstand, corrals, bucking chutes and a race track. Community persistence and dedication paid off and the first Polson Roundup was staged in the summer of 1940. During those early days the event was on the Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit that included Cheyenne Frontier Days, the Calgary Stampede and the Pendleton Roundup and as Les had envisioned cowboys and cowgirls that attended those well-known rodeos were also entering the Polson Roundup. Special entertainment attractions were added to the event including trick riding and roping. The Salish, Kootenai and Pend Oreille tribal members erected tipis near the arena to join with the festivities and big parades were held in downtown Polson to compliment the event.”

Baldwin died in 1978, but the legacy he helped to create lives on.

The Mission Mountain NRA Rodeo will be at the Polson Fairgrounds on Friday and Saturday, June 23-24. This will be the 77th year of rodeo held at this Polson facility. Big Circle Rodeo from Circle will provide the livestock for this year’s event. Contestants will be competing for more than $10,000 of added money in bareback riding, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, team roping, junior and senior barrel racing, tie-down roping, junior and senior breakway roping and bull riding.

Top rodeo contestants from Montana, surrounding states and Canada travel the Northern Rodeo Association circuit throughout the summer months in hopes of qualifying for the NRA Finals in Butte in October. NRA rodeos feature many family participants — dads, moms and kids all compete.

The thrills and spills kick off at 6:30 p.m. each night with youth events: mutton busting and mini bull riding. The NRA Rodeo begins at 7:30 p.m. and food and beverage concessions are available, along with a free non-food vendors fair. After Friday night’s performance, live music will be provided for everyone’s dancing and listening pleasure.

Tickets are available at the gate only and are $10 for adults 12 and over, $5 for children under 12, admission is free for children 3 and under.

For vendors fair information call Sharon at 406-261-2861. For general rodeo information call 406-883-1100.

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