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Roughrider Days Rodeo preparing to kick off today

After over a year of coordination, hard work and preparation, the Roughrider Days Rodeo is all set to go.

As a part of the 43rd annual Roughrider Days Fair and Expo this week, the three-day Roughrider Days Rodeo begins today at the Dickinson State Outdoor Arena. Grand entry begins at 6:15 p.m. and the performances will commence at 6:30 p.m.

Arena superintendent Leon Kristianson said there will be hundreds of contestants competing in the seven events.

Kristianson also said there are 13 past National Finals Rodeo world champions signed up.

"We're pretty excited about that," Kristianson said. "It's just unheard of."

The Roughrider Days Rodeo, which is a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association-sanctioned event, is one of many activities during the Roughrider Days. Tonight's rodeo is also fan appreciation night.

"It's a real family orientated event," said Kyle Shobe, who has been the announcer of the Roughrider Days Rodeo for 10 years. "It's a long-standing tradition here in Dickinson and it continues to be."

Kristianson said cowboys and cowgirls from across the country use the Roughrider Days Rodeo as the commencement of their money-making season.

"It kicks off the Cowboy Christmas," Kristianson said. "Everybody's healthy. This is one of the first rodeos they go to on their Fourth of July run."

This year's rodeo clown will be John Harrison, who in his entertainment career has been nominated for the PRCA Comedy Act of the Year six times and the PRCA's Clown of the Year three times. In 2012, he won his first Comedy Act of the Year award.

"He is a widely known rodeo clown," Shobe said. "He'll be a lot of fun."

The Roughrider Days Rodeo has a long history in the Dickinson community.

The Roughrider Commission started in 1970 and was given the opportunity to start a city-wide Independence Day celebration. After working to get the Roughrider Days Rodeo as well as other festivities put together, the commission continued the event, which has evolved into Roughrider Days.

"Rodeo was the start of it and will always be a part of Roughrider Days," Roughrider Commission secretary Lori Vernon said. "The contestants are healthy and they're ready to get started. We're one of the rodeos they can attend first."

Kristianson said the commission takes all year to organize today's rodeo. In fact, the association is already making plans for the 2014 and 2015 Roughrider Days Rodeos.

With so much time leading up to each annual rodeo, members of the commission are eager to get started.

"For us, it's really exciting. It's a lot of planning. We work on it all year long," Vernon said. "We really enjoy doing it."

Though it takes an abundance of preparation to get the rodeo organized, Kristianson said the Roughrider Days Rodeo is worth the effort it requires.

"For me, it's more of a family reunion," Kristianson said. "It's a big commitment that I enjoy, so that's why I do it."

With so many high-level cowboys and cowgirls coming in for the Roughrider Days Rodeo today, Shobe and members of the commission said hopes are high for this year's event.

"It's a full rodeo," Shobe said. "There will be plenty of action. Every event is pretty well full. ... All in all, it should be a good show."