Grab your cowboy boots and hats and get ready for some good old-fashioned, yet competitive — bull riding, barrel racing and steer wrestling to name a few of the traditional rodeo events — to be held right here this weekend in Brainerd.
The Minnesota High School Rodeo Association (MNHSRA) will host its Region 1 high school rodeo Friday, May 18 through Sunday at the Crow Wing County Fairgrounds in Brainerd.
Chris Hanneken, president of MNHSRA’s Region 1, said Region 1 encompasses high schools in northern Minnesota. Region 1 generally hosts one high school rodeo per year and the last several years it was held in either Grand Rapids or Pine River.
“It is my understanding we have hosted in Brainerd in the past, but it has been quite a few years,” said Hanneken. “We’re excited to be in Brainerd this year. The rodeo performances are a fun, family event.”
At the rodeo competition there will be about 140 contestants from throughout the state, with about 10 living in the Brainerd lakes area. Competitors range in age from sixth grade through 12th grade. Events will include all traditional rodeo events and several tailored for the younger competitors. Rodeo events include cutting, barrel racing, pole bending, steer wrestling, bull riding, ribbon roping, goat tying, break-away roping, team roping, tie-down roping, chute dogging, saddle bronc and bareback riding.
Hanneken said the rodeo competition — which starts at 7 p.m. Friday and runs through Sunday — is open to the public. Hanneken said parts of the rodeo are free of charge to attend. The performances — at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday — will have an admission fee. Admission is $8 for adults, $4 for ages 5-17, and children under 5 are free.
Hanneken said all aspects of the performance are tailored for spectators.
“We attempt to make the performances flow from event to event in a quick manner to keep the interest of the audience,” said Hanneken. “The events during the day can drag out since there may be 40-50 competitors in a single event. In addition, the performance is the only time we will have bucking horse or bull events.”
Friday night will be the cutting competition. This event will have about 15 competitors and is free of charge. Cutting is where a horse and rider separates, or cuts, one cow from a herd and then showcases the horse’s athleticism and training while preventing the cow from returning to the herd.
Saturday’s rodeo will start at 10 a.m. in two separate arenas at the fairgrounds during the day. There will be no admission charged during the day. Saturday’s activities should be done by about 4 p.m. and then there will be the 7 p.m. performance that will showcase only 10 competitors in each event. The rodeo will begin at 9 a.m. Sunday, with the 2 p.m. performance.
Hanneken said the high school rodeo season starts in August and ends with a state finals in June. Regions throughout the state host regional rodeos for all contestants in the association. Competitors accumulate points during these regional rodeos to position themselves for the state finals competition. The top four competitors in each event after the state finals are eligible to compete at the National High School Finals Rodeo. This year the junior high finals will be held in Gallup, N.M., and the high school finals will be in Rock Springs, Wyo.
After the Brainerd competition, Region 1 athletes will compete over Memorial Day weekend in Fergus Falls; then the junior high state finals will be the first weekend in June in St. Peter; and the high school state finals June 15-17 in Hugo.
Hanneken said Region 1 has had a number of youth qualify for nationals, with two who have won national titles.
Hanneken’s ninth grade daughter, Jess, who attends Pine River-Backus High School (PR-B), has been in the competition since sixth grade. Jess used to only compete in barrel racing and pole bending, but last spring she began break-away roping and team roping. She also did ribbon roping for one year in the junior division.
“I do everything (all the events) a girl can do in the rodeo competition,” said Jess. “I probably won’t make nationals, but I hope to next year.
“My grandpa used to do rodeo and my mom did a little. I began riding horses when I was really little. I love horses.”
Siblings Kari and Shawn Brandon, Kari, a senior at PR-B and Shawn, a ninth-grader at Pine River, will compete this weekend. Kari has been in the rodeo competition since sixth grade and Shawn will compete in bull riding for the first time this year.
“I wanted to do bull riding for a long time,” Shawn said. “It’s the thrill of it, it’s cool and the girls like it.
“It was harder than I thought it’d be. You need a lot of balance and strength. My mom paid for a weekend clinic and I rode two out of six bulls. My goal is to be on it for eight seconds.”
Kari said her goal this season, is the same as it has been for the past seven years — to make it to nationals.
“I have a good chance this year,” said Kari. “I’m in the top 10 right now (when you add up the regional points).
Kari will compete in barrel racing, pole bending, break away roping and goat tying.
Kari said after high school she will not be able to be in the MNHSRA, but said she may do rodeo competition in the Minnesota Rodeo Association (MRA).
Cora Borman, a sixth-grader at PR-B, the daughter of Pam and Cory Borman, has been riding horse since she was 2 and this year will be her first rodeo competition.
“I’ve been practicing for these events since I was 9,” said Cora. “The events are fun. I plan to do team roping, break-away roping, barrel racing, ribbon roping and goat tying.”
Pam Borman said her husband has competed in the MRA for the past 20 years and she competed for a couple of years.
“This is all she (Cora) knows,” said Borman. It’s fun. Cora is very dedicated and she is always out there training and exercising her horse. She definitely has a passion for it. My other kids don’t have this as a passion.”
Cora said that being on her horse and doing the events comes natural for her.
“I wish I could do this every second of the day,” said Cora. “I practice two hours a night and then exercise my horse.”
Cora said that she has already qualified for nationals in break-away roping and in goat tying.
“I never thought I could do that in my first year,” said Cora. “I’d like to make it in the Top 10 in barrel racing.”