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UWRF rodeo event marks 51st annual performance

September 17, 2015

UW-River Fall’s Rodeo Club held the first performance of the 51st annual Falcon Frontier Days Rodeo on Friday Sep. 10, drawing over 3,000 attendees all weekend and over seven competing Midwestern colleges.

Hosting the rodeo has been a long tradition at UWRF. According to the UWRF College of Agriculture’s history page, the idea to start a rodeo club was conceived during the 1962-63 school year, resulting in the formation of the River Falls Collegiate Rodeo Association. The members soon realized they had much work to do, and set about finding a faculty advisor, starting promotions and advertising, and finding the money and resources to build an arena to actually host the rodeo in.

With the help of faculty advisor Dr. Herhardt “Doc” Bohn, the student organization was able to do so, and the first annual UWRF Rodeo was held over two days, May 16 and 17, 1963, featuring over 10 events. The club only had seven competing members that first year, while this year more than 20 competed in the rodeo, with around 50 club members total.

Fifty one-years later, the rodeo took place once again in the same arena Bohn and the first rodeo club members built. The grass lawn parking lot of the university’s lab farm was filled for the last part of the rodeo Saturday night. Every seat in the bleachers was taken and many attendants sat on blankets in the grass for a better view of the events.

Saturday night was the last of the three sections of the rodeo, termed the “short-go.” The first two parts of the rodeo, held on Friday night and Saturday afternoon, were referred to as “long-go” because all members of the team compete in two events. The last ‘short’ go on Saturday night is only for competitors who placed in the top ten of their events, receiving a chance to compete for the top spot overall.

Starting at 7 p.m. promptly, a student from SDSU tied up a calf in an event called ‘calf roping,’ where the competitor rides a horse to lasso a calf, and then proceeds to jump off the horse, flip the calf on its side, and tie it’s feet together. The longer the calf stays tied, the higher the competitors score will be.

Each event section of the rodeo typically lasts about two to three hours, depending on how many contestants there are. The UWRF rodeo features many events besides calf tying, such as breakaway roping; team roping; steer wrestling; goat tying; barrel racing, which always has the most competitors and by far the most popular, bull riding.

Kara Korton, a freshman who studies elementary education, was one of the 3,000 people who attended the Rodeo this weekend.

“It’s a really cool thing to be able to go to on a Saturday night out of your normal routine… the team roping event was really cool and interesting to watch, and the goat tying, but I get all tensed up when they’re going to fall off!”

Mitch Devine was elected as UWRF Rodeo Club President last November, but only started riding bull’s in May. In preparation for the rodeo, Devine said the club plans all year to put it together, and worked overtime in the days leading up to make everything worked out smoothly.

“I’m so excited to have brought all these students together from across the Midwest for a rodeo; we’ve been working on it since at least April, but I probably put in about fifty hours just this week alone, making sure everything works out right” said Devine, who is a junior studying Agriculture.

The President of Rodeo Club also commented on how being a part of the club has taught him a lot aside from just rodeo organization.

“Being part of the rodeo club and team have taught me a lot about communication and a hard work ethic. You have to be able to effectively communicate with many different people going in 100 different directions.”

While most of the rodeo events are extremely dangerous and only done by tough young men and women, one event had the crowd laughing hysterically- the mutton busting. The mutton busting event takes place before the final competitive events, and any child that wants to participate is called in to the arena. They’re given a helmet, and taken into a pen where they climb on to the backs of sheep, wrap their arms around its neck, and hang on for dear life as the sheep is let loose from its pen and into the arena. The child who hangs on long enough after everyone has taken a turn is deemed the champion.

The main event hosted by UWRF Rodeo club is of course the Falcon Frontier Days Rodeo, but the club meets throughout the year. They always try to attend the World’s Toughest Rodeo in the Twin Cities, and do group building activities when they can, like movie nights and getting together to practice for the rodeo. They have also participated in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, mentoring small kids and showing them some of the basic rodeo skills. Anyone interested in rodeo club is encouraged to check out their website; you don’t have to be in equine or agriculture studies to take part.