BILLINGS — Chase Brooks isn’t one to hide his feelings.
“I love the NILE rodeo,” said the world-class cowboy.
And he should.
Brooks returns to First Interstate Arena Thursday night to defend his PRCA NILE saddle bronc title.
The annual rodeo is Thursday, Friday and Saturday with 7 p.m. performances each night.
The Thursday performance will also include the High School Showcase with Montana high school cowboys and cowgirls competing alongside their professional peers.
The PRCA NILE is one of the higher-paying rodeos to start the 2020 season.
Exactly a year ago, Brooks won the first of what would be eight i-state rodeos for a spectacular 2019.
Brooks, who splits his time between Ennis and Butte, finished the regular season sixth in the PRCA world standings and earned a second consecutive National Finals Rodeo qualification.
“The NILE was the biggest rodeo I got to go to early in my career,” said Brooks. “Last year was cool. Knowing I had the Finals made, the crowd was more excited than I was.”
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Brooks won in Billings with an 88-point ride aboard Powder River Rodeo's Double Take.
He will begin chasing his second clean sweep of PRCA rodeos in Billings this week. He won both the NILE last October and the Yellowstone Round-Up in August.
And for 2020, Brooks and his contemporaries have a little more incentive to put the PRCA NILE on their rodeo calendar.
The NILE rodeo committee has increased the total payout, now adding $10,000 per event. The added money makes the NILE one of the highest-paying rodeos in Montana along with the Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit Finals in Great Falls, Livingston and Baker.
“We felt like the rodeo was at a point where it needed a little momentum,” said NILE general manager Jennifer Boka. “We wanted to guarantee the top competitors for our fans. We felt they deserved the very best in each performance.”
With the extra money, the PRCA NILE format has also changed. Every entry for steer wrestling, tie-down roping and team roping competed in Wednesday’s slack round. The top 30 will advance to the nightly performances on a random draw.
This year’s PRCA NILE has drawn 125 barrel racers, 93 tie-down ropers, 74 steer wrestlers and 53 team roping pairs.
“The NILE will be generating the Billings community more economic impact by keeping the cowboys in town longer,” Boka said.
The rough stock entries include five-time world bull riding Sage Kimzey on Saturday, 2009 world saddle bronc champion Jesse Kruse on Saturday and 2019 all-around standings leader Stetson Wright in saddle bronc riding on Thursday.
Powder River Rodeo, winner of the PRCA’s prestigious Remuda Award for 2019, is again the stock contractor for the PRCA NILE. The Riverton, Wyoming-based rodeo company is also a finalist for PRCA stock contractor of the year.