Mixed in with the normal sights and sounds of winter rodeo will be tinges of nostalgia in Great Falls this weekend.
The Montana PRCA Pro Rodeo Finals turn 25 years old and, as with the previous two dozen, they'll be held at the Four Seasons Arena amid various degrees of cold outside.
Friday and Saturday performances are at 7 p.m. Sunday's championship round starts at 2 p.m.
The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association started the circuit system in 1975, and Montana instituted its finals five years later. Champions after that first January rodeo in 1980 included Pat Linger in bareback riding; Lynn Perry in steer wrestling; Bill E. Parker, team roping; Jim Croff, saddle bronc; Dean Woodard, calf roping; Dave Wagner, bull riding, and Donna Idland, barrel racing. Jerry Small won his first of two all-around titles.
Croff, from Belt, is the director of the finals these days. Most of the others still share connections with Montana rodeo today - as fans, if nothing else. They'll be introduced in a special ceremony on Saturday night.
The top 12 contestants in each event from the 2003 season qualified for the finals. They'll be vying for year-end championships and a chance to represent the Montana circuit at the Dodge National Circuit Finals in Pocatello, Idaho, in March.
One of the biggest names couldn't make it. Barrel racer Rachael Sproul of Arlee, who has won 10 year-end circuit titles, suffered a broken arm at the NILE Rodeo in Billings in October. She recently had a plate and several pins inserted and will be out of action until February.
Carolynn Vietor of Philipsburg takes a healthy $2,700 lead into that event. Vietor competed in her first circuit finals in 1980 and has qualified 12 times since - but has yet to win the title.
The largest lead going into the finals belongs to another veteran, steer wrestler Shannon Blixt of Helena, who leads protégé Nick Stubblefield of Helena by some $3,200. Blixt won his first year-end steer wrestling title 15 years ago and took a second in 1996.
The featured race of the weekend is between two young ropers, Ryan Siemsen of Billings and Dustin Bird of Cut Bank. Siemsen, looking for his first title, leads Bird in calf roping by a mere $5 - $6,459 to $6,454. Siemsen also owns a $646 lead over Bird in the all-around race, one that Bird captured last year.
Both will team rope as well, Siemsen as the header for Charlie Lenning of Worden and Bird as heeler for his uncle Sam Bird, the Montana team roping champion seven times from 1982 to 1999.
Other event leaders include 2001 champion Scott Chesarek of Billings in bareback riding; team ropers Britt Williams of Hammond and four-time champion Derick Fleming of Dillon; saddle bronc rider J.T. Robbins of Dillon, and Leroy Cooper of Helena in bull riding.
Defending bareback champion Scott Lund of Ronan, who has won three titles in the past five years, sits third going in this time. Josh Reynolds of Corvallis, who spent most of 2003 mending from two broken legs, is ninth in the saddle bronc standings.
Missoula's Pat Pendergrass, who'll team rope with Dustin Ostrum of Fishtail, is fifth in the header standings. Defending champion header Shain Sproul of Arlee is eighth. Kory Mytty of Lolo is back with Shane Schwenke of Harlem to form a team-roping duo that captured the title in nine years ago. Each sits third in the current standings.
Western Montana bull riders include Beau Hill of West Glacier, second behind Cooper by about $1,200, and the Crump brothers of St. Ignatius. Brett Crump sits in sixth place, Rob Crump in ninth.
Veteran Will Rasmussen of Choteau will be announcing again, and Lecile Harris of Tennessee will be the rodeo clown. T.J. Baird and Mike Anderson were selected as bullfighters.
Stock contractors are Brookman Rodeo, Kesler Championship Rodeo and Sankey Rodeo. Among the featured bucking animals are Montana bucking horses of the year: Sankey's William (bareback) and Dunny (saddle bronc). Brookman's Dippin' Bear Paw was voted bull of the year.
Competitors in the Montana PRCA Circuit Finals
1, Scott Chesarek, Billings, $5809; 2, John H. Stewart, Malta, 5268; 3, Scott Lund, Ronan, 4311; 4, Troy Solomon, Greycliff, 2736; 5, Seth Planichek, Absarokee, 2575; 6, Derry McLane, Bozeman, 1850; 7, Jake Hayworth, Billings, 1416; 8, Chase Erickson, Dillon, 1398; 9, Andy Bolich, Bozeman, 1000; 10, Dusty Solomon, Stanford, 978; 11, Ryan Beckman, Bozeman, 854; 12, Ben Wrzesinski, Helena, 690.
1, J.T. Robbins,Dillon, 7252; 2, Jake Costello, Dillon, 6591; 3, Buck Reiner, Fishtail, 5220; 4, Shaun Stroh, Glendive, 3514; 5, Shane Moran, Dillon, 3421; 6, Hugh Connolly, Billings, 3656; 7, Gary Pimperton, Belt, 2576; 8, Adam Bink, Browning, 2441; 9, Josh Reynolds, Corvallis, 2097; 10, Jake Hayworth, Billings, 1979; 11, Jess Martin, Dillon, 1697; 12, James Cole, Red Lodge, 1663.
1, Leroy Cooper, Helena, 8419; 2, Beau Hill, West Glacier, 7239; 3, Travis Burian, Terry, 4369; 4, Troy Wilcox, Absarokee, 4078; 5, Steve Balgeman, Manhattan, 4064; 6, Brett Crump, St. Ignatius, 3620; 7, Jeff Marn, Belt, 3381; 8, Jess Matt, Bridger, 3354; 9, Rob Crump, St. Ignatius, 2943; 10, Tyler Dellen, Wilsall, 2918; 11, Winston Kusler, Havre, 2770; 12, Seth Redding, Fort Smith, 2716.
1, Shannon Blixt, Helena, $11,047; 2, Nick Stubblefield, Helena, 7887; 3, John Gee, Stanford, 5124; 4, Pete Petersen, Dillon, 5059; 5, Ken Holland, Dillon, 4766; 6, Shawn Downing, Townsend, 4285; 7, Mike Gollaher, Cascade, 4268; 8, Rod Paschke, Terry, 4227; 9, Bill Boyce, Lewistown, 4220; 10, Ivan Teigen, Capitol, 3741; 11, Jesse Peterson, Dillon, 3633; 12, Jaren Whitman, Belgrade, 2675.
1, Ryan Siemsen, Billings, 6459; 2, Dustin Bird, Cut Bank, 6454; 3, Travis Caldwell, Billings, 5000; 4, Shane Eberline, Dillon, 3790; 5, Brett Fleming, Broadus, 3696; 6, Jody Wacker, Roundup, 3602; 7, J.C. Crowley, Poplar, 3286; 8, J Billingsley, Glasgow, 2050; 9, Chad Johnson, Cut Bank, 1907; 10, Bill Benson, Billings, 1892; 11, Jack VAnderlans, Cameron, 1694; 12, Bryant Mikkelson, Great Falls, 1669.
Team roping (headers)
1, Britt Williams, Hammond, $8691; 2, Matt Robertson, Augusta, 6190; 3, Shane Schwenke, Harlem, 5650; 4, Pat Pendergrass, Missoula, 5530; 5, Travis Tryan, Billings, 4976; 6, Ryan Siemsen, Billings, 4388; 7, Scot Strauser, Havre, 4378; 8, Shain Sproul, Arlee, 4257; 9, Brant Davis, Sand Coulee, 4111; 10, Brett Fleming, Broadus, 3979; 11, Sam Bird, Cut Bank, 3750; 12, Donny Guardipee, Cut Bank, 3136.
Team roping (heelers)
1, Derick Fleming, Dillon, 8691; 2, John Robertson, Augusta, 6190; 3, Kory Mytty, Lolo, 5530; 4, Shane Bessette, Belt, 4875; 5, Spider Ramone, Hays, 4378; 6, Dennis Tryan, Huntley, 4268; 7, Jesse Fleming, Broadus, 3979; 8, Dustin Bird, Cut Bank, 3750; 9, Jordan Handy, Chinook, 3666; 10, Charlie Lenning, Worden, 2774; 11, Jim Cole, Harlem, 2412; 12, Dustin Ostrum, Fishtail, 2021.
1, Carolynn Vietor, Philipsburg, $7808; 2, Charlotte Berry, Cut Bank, 5716; 3, Terri Kaye Kirkland, Billings, 3308; 4, Holly Hayworth, Dillon, 3159; 5, Rayna Prewitt, Sidney, 3112; 6, Jodie Irish, Helena, 3079; 7, Raelene Konzak, Geyser, 2771; 8, Deanna Levine, Belt, 2693; 9, Darcy Mapston, Geyser, 2612; 10, Angela Lockwood, Volborg, 2585; 11, Maria Gee, Stanford, 2152; 12, Luanne Cutler, Ennis, 2085.
1, Ryan Siemsen, Billings, $10,846; 2, Dustin Bird, Cut Bank, 10,204; 3, Brett Fleming, Broadus, 8214; 4, Bill Boyce, Lewistown, 6406; 5, Brant Davis, Sand Coulee, 4564; 6, Rob Kountz, Bozeman, 3792; 7, Chris Witcher, Billings, 3649.