The Western Montana Fair is celebrating its centennial and it is still upholding some of its oldest traditions: carnival rides, 4-H, fair food and the rodeo.
The professional rodeo at the fair is one of the most popular attractions and always finds ways to bring in a crowd.
“The stands are always very packed,” said Ike Sankey, owner of Sankey Pro Rodeo, who is once again producing the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event at the fair.
This year marks some new additions, including the first year for a ranch rodeo as a warmup to the usual three nights of professional rodeo.
“We liked the idea of getting people to see something new,” Sankey said.
The idea behind the Ranch Rodeo on Tuesday night is to show off skills that people would normally do on a ranch, such as team branding, sorting and doctoring; ranch bron riding, trailer loading and the always exciting wild cow milking.
“The ranch rodeo is meant to be taken a little less seriously than other rodeo,” said Sankey, “These events are fun for the ranchers but even more fun for the audience.”
The PRCA rodeos will take place on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday during the fair and will include all of the usual events – bareback, saddle bronc and bull riding; team and tie-down roping, steer wrestling and women’s barrel racing. Many of the contestants are vying for a spot in the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in December. The top 15 money winners in each event at the end of the season qualify.
Clowns and a trick roping exhibition round out the show. The Western Montana Fair rodeo is again part of the nationwide Ram Rodeo Series and the PRCA All-American ProRodeo Series. More than $60,000 in purse money is up for grabs in the seven events.
Bull riding takes center stage Thursday night with the annual Bull-O-Rama. Each contestant has the chance to prove himself on two rides.
Sankey Pro Rodeo has been in business for over 30 years. The Joliet-based outfit makes rodeo its only business. Sankey said the company has raised 99 percent of the horses that buck at its rodeos.
Admission to Tuesday night’s ranch rodeo is $5. Grandstand tickets to each PRCA rodeo performance and the Bull-O-Rama are $16 for adults and $12 for children age 6-15. Bleacher tickets are $12. Tickets bought in advance include gate admission to the fair. Day-of-show purchasers must buy gate tickets first at $6 for adults and $3 for children before purchasing event tickets at the fairgrounds box office.