The Choteau American Legion’s 78th bronc bucking, barrel racing, steer-wrestling 4th of July rodeo will start with timed-event slack on July 3 at 4 p.m., and then on July 4 will have rough-stock slack at 8 a.m. and the main event at 2 p.m. at the Choteau Rodeo Grounds.

Legion Cmdr. Jerry Collins said ticket sales have exploded as good weather and a great lineup of rodeo cowboys and cowgirls are set to make the event a crowd-pleaser. “The ticket sales have been a lot better than last year,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a big rodeo.”

Admission to the July 3 evening slack is $5 per person. Local cowboys and cowgirls competing in the slack are Celie and Molly Salmond of Choteau and Abigail deVos of Fort Shaw in barrel racing; Cambri Guenzler of Choteau in junior barrel racing; the teams of Jessy Davis and Marshall Willekes of Choteau, Kalia Medeiros and Camilo de la Cruz of Augusta, Bean Neal and Jere Long of Choteau, Nick and Slade Stubblefield of Choteau, Gus Lee of Choteau and Bowen Rappold of Dupuyer, and Mark and Celie Salmond of Choteau in team roping; Steely Stubblefield of Choteau, Celie and Molly Salmond and Charley Yeager, all of Choteau, and Arena de la Cruz and Kalia Medeiros, both of Augusta, in breakaway roping; and Camilo and Gio de la Cruz and Slade Stubblefield in junior breakaway roping.

The Sons of the American Legion will staff the beer garden during the slack event and food concessions will be available.

Admission to the July 4 morning slack is free. This session will feature 19 riders in bareback, rookie bareback and saddle bronc, saddle bronc and bull riding. Local cowboys Kash Bouma of Fairfield and Wyatt Barrett of Augusta will compete in rookie saddle bronc and Aiden Copenhaver of Fairfield will ride in saddle bronc.

The main event on July 4 will run from 2 to 4 p.m. with the Choteau Booster Club selling concessions and the Choteau Wrestling Club staffing the beer garden. Reserved seating tickets in the grandstands are $20 and general admission is $15 for adults and $8 for children ages 8 to 15. Local riders competing in the main event are Kinley Bouma of Fairfield in junior barrel racing and Tyrell Schmidt of Fairfield in bull riding.

The Choteau Community Band under the direction of Fred Gnojek and Dana Burt, will play in the stands from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. and will perform the national anthem for the opening ceremonies.

Collins on Saturday told the Acantha that there were only about 100 seats left in the grandstand for the July 4 main event, but there are plenty of general admission seats available.

The Northern Rodeo Association-sanctioned event has cowboys and cowgirls registered for 322 outs and includes junior events for young cowboys and cowgirls, and the Jacobs Challenge events for rookie rough stock riders.

Collins said with the support of rodeo sponsors, the Legion has again added money to the prizes for timed and rough stock events and that added money has spurred registrations from rodeo athletes. “It’s one of the richer-paying rodeos in the NRA right now,” he said.

The rodeo producer will again be Jacobs Livestock Rodeo Co. from Vaughn. Other rodeo personnel are Collins as the announcer; bullfighters, Jarred Anderson and Jamie Mullins; funnyman, Jett Lorang; pickup men, Pete White and Shane Moran; timers, Fanci Pulliam and Betsy Moran; secretary Terrie Lyman; and judges, Jim Duval and Mike Tatsey.

Collins said spectators will enjoy Lorang’s humorous skits and will be treated to a display of trick riding by Olivia Leininger and Anna Brown, who are coming from eastern Montana to perform their daredevil equestrian acts.

Members of the Legion Rodeo Committee are Collins, Marlin Styren, Aaron Leys, Luke Grigsby, Leo Tash and Christopher Banka.

Other rodeo standing committees are led by Sons of the American Legion Squadron President Mark Larson and Legion Auxiliary President Betsy Styren. The Choteau Lions Swim Team has again sold the advertising for the rodeo program, and the American Legion Club is handling ticket sales.

Dick Lyman, owner of Jacobs Livestock Rodeo Co., in an interview Saturday, said he and his crew are, as always, happy to bring their rodeo stock to the Choteau rodeo, which traditionally attracts some of the top competitors in the NRA.

“We’re just excited to be there. It’s always been one of my favorite rodeos over the season,” Lyman said. “My whole family is going to be there.”

Lyman’s business is producing 30 rodeo performances in 90 days. “It’s a big summer for us. We’ve got lots of stuff going on,” he said.

Jacobs Livestock Rodeo Co. is known for bringing tough rough stock that tests the skills and mettle of rodeo athletes, and this year’s lineup of stock will be no different. “We’re pretty excited about the horses we’ve put together. We have a really nice pen of really good stuff to get on,” he said.

Four of the bucking broncs, two of the bareback horses and six of the bulls all bucked in the NRA finals last year.

Lyman said the stock challenge the rodeo riders, with the stock winning sometimes and the riders hanging on to score other times.

“The kids are riding pretty good this year,” he said. “We haven’t had a clean sweep yet this year.”

Lyman said he is pleased with his rodeo crew this year. Pickup men White and Moran are two of the best in the state, he said, and bullfighters Anderson and Mullins, returning from last year, are welcome additions to the crew.

“Our whole goal, and we’ve worked hard at it for many years, is just to put on a really good show,” Lyman said.

Collins encouraged community members to come out and support the rodeo, which benefits the community through the Legion’s contributions to local charities and organizations.

The Legion and Sons members said the Legion would not be able to offer such great cash prizes for the top placers without the generous support of the area businesses that purchase sponsorships. Those dollars from the advertising sponsorships not only help pay the costs of producing the rodeo but also help with other Legion-supported programs that benefit local veterans and charities such as the Backpack Buddies food program in Choteau Elementary School, the annual Boys State delegates, Canine Care Montana (which trains service dogs for veterans), and the Choteau Lions Swimming Pool, among others.

As a special fundraiser, the American Legion Club is hosting a poker run on July 6 to raise money for upgrading electrical services to the rodeo grounds.

The buy-in is $10 per hand and the event begins at 11 a.m. at the Choteau American Legion with stops at J.D.’s Wildlife Sanctuary II in Bynum, the Box R Bar in Pendroy, TNT in Conrad and Dusty’s Bar in Brady and finishes at the Choteau American Legion. The first-, second- and third-best hands will receive a cash payout. The Legion will keep 50% of the proceeds.

Collins said the Legion wants to extend electrical service and internet service to both of the ticket booths on the grounds and to install additional lighting in the arena and throughout the grounds so that evening or night rodeos could be held there. This is the second year of fundraising for the project.

People who want to support the Legion will have lots of opportunities this week. The American Legion Club will be open on July 3 and 4 at 8 a.m., serving biscuits and gravy and loaded Caesars in the morning and burgers and drinks in the afternoon and evening.

On July 3 the Legion will have a street dance at 8 p.m. to the music of ShakeDown County and mechanical bull riding.

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