BILLINGS — It is apropos that the PRCA Cody Stampede is celebrating a milestone anniversary the same year of receiving rodeo’s highest honor.
The Cody Stampede in Wyoming is the highest-paying one-round event during professional rodeo’s Cowboy Christmas.
This year, the rodeo is expected to pay out approximately $330,000.
And the 2019 version is more special than most. It is the 100-year anniversary of the Cody Stampede. Also celebrating 100 years are rodeos in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, and Reno, Nevada.
In August, the Cody Stampede will be inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
It was selected the PRCA’s Best Large Outdoor Rodeo in 1998 and 1999.
The rodeo began in 1919 to commemorate William “Buffalo Bill,” Cody who passed away in 1917. The first Cody rodeo was held June 23-25 and was part of the celebration with the opening of the east gate for Yellowstone National Park.
The rodeo was moved to July 4 in 1920 and has been there ever since.
This year’s Cody Stampede is July 1-4. A Division 2 Extreme Bulls event is June 30. In honor of 100 years, all former champions have been invited back.
Dan Mortensen of Billings still holds the Cody Stampede Rodeo record saddle bronc ride with 92 points aboard the Sankey Rodeo Horse Skitso in 1995.
The Livingston Round-Up has reached 95 years and the Home of Champions rodeo in Red Lodge is 90 this summer.
Livingston was the highest-paying rodeo in Montana in 2018. Both Livingston and Red Lodge are July 2-4. The grand marshal for the Red Lodge parade is former bull riding great Clint Branger of Roscoe.
New to the schedule is a PRCA rodeo in Roundup with performances at the Musselshell County Fairgrounds on July 3 (4 p.m.) and July 4 (1 p.m.)
According to the PRCA, this year’s Cowboy Christmas will feature 26 rodeos from June 30 to July 9.
Many competitors started competing daily on June 20.
Along with mapping out travel plans to maximize entries, Cowboy Christmas also presents other challenges for the cowboys and cowgirls.
“You try to pack about two weeks’ worth of clothes,” explained steer wrestler Josh Clark of Belgrade. “You don’t really get much time to wash. If you get a few hours when traveling, you might stop in a town and do a load of laundry.”
Knowing that, some rodeos offer additional amenities for the competitors.
“Reno has a drying cleaning service where they take your clothes and bring them back to you,” Clark added.
Cowboy Christmas plays a large role for many in their pursuit of qualifying for the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
The stretch of rodeos could also go a long way in determining other year-end races.
Two Montana cowboys – Haven Meged and Kal Fuller – lead their respective events in the Resistol Rookie of the Year standings.
Meged, of Miles City, has a lead of $33,000 in the tie-down roping standings with $58,360 won this year. The RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo champion recently won the tie-down roping at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming.
Meged has won the third-most amount of money among those in the rookie standings, trailing only bull riders Stetson Wright and Trey Kimzey.
Bozeman’s Kal Fuller leads the rookie team roping heading standings. He is a former national junior high all-around champion and Northern Rodeo Association champion.
Tristan Hansen of Dillon is third in the bareback standings for rookies. He trails leader Jesse Pope of Marshall, Missouri, by $1,754.
The Northern Rodeo Association will be sanctioning three rodeos during the Fourth of July run: Harlowton (July 2-3), Ennis (July 3-4) and Choteau (July 4).
The rodeos will have an impact on the NRA/Northern Women’s Rodeo Association standings.
Gerald Eash of Trego is on both ends of the spectrum for event standings.
Eash is pursuing his second NRA Triple Crown — year-end championships in three events. Entering the Fourth of July, he leads the saddle bronc, bull riding and all-around cowboy standings.
He leads the bull riding by a scant $14 over defending champion Payton Fitzpatrick of Polson. But Trego leads the all-around standings by almost $3,000.
Trego won his first Triple Crown in 2011 and also won the all-around in 2013.
James Ramirez of Manhattan finds himself sandwiched between two former champions in an ultra-tight race in the tie-down roping standings. Less than $90 separates the top three.
Dillon Hahnkamp of Melrose, the 2016 champion, has a lead of $38 on Ramirez, while Worden’s Ryan Siemsen trails by $87.
Siemsen won year-end championships in 2007, 2004 and 2003. He was also the top all-around cowboy in 2003 and 2007.