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Killdeer's rodeo to be the largest in its 97 years of competition

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Rodeo participants from all over the country, and some parts of Canada, will be coming to Killdeer, N.D. for the 97th Killdeer Rodeo from July 2-4. (File Image/The Dickinson Press)
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Sports in general have taken a large hit from the coronavirus. While well-known sports have been forced to postpone their seasons and cancel events, rodeos have also been having to force stepbacks throughout the country. However, while the annual Killdeer rodeo is a fan favorite, the 2020 rodeo will always be remembered with it being the largest rodeo the event has ever seen in its history of nearly 100 years.

Over 1,000 cowboys and cowgirls in total will be participating in the the 97th Killdeer Mountain Top Rodeo, making it the largest number of participants the event has ever seen. While some are local, others from across the country, and parts of Canada will be coming to the Badlands to be part of the well-known rodeo.

“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” Stacey Steffan, the organizer for the event, said. “This is the highest our contestant numbers have ever been .… We do have locals as contestants, but it’s all the way from Texas, Kansas, California, to some in Canada, it’s all over.”

With such large numbers, the event will be broken down into three days with different events happening on each day to help limit the number of active participants. The event will begin on Thursday, July 2, with barrel racing and breakaway slack at 5 p.m. On Friday, July 3, and Saturday, July 4 a calcutta on saddle broncos, steer wrestling and bull riding will be featured opening at 5:30 p.m., with the rodeo beginning at 6:30 p.m. and on Saturday, July 4, rodeo slacks will open the day at 8 a.m. A firework display is scheduled to conclude the event at 9 p.m.

For participants such as local Scott Kleeman, the winner of the steel wrestling event at the Killdeer rodeo in 2019, the added members brings a lot more motivation and excitement to the preparation of the event.

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“It’s exciting to see how you measure up when this many more people come,” Kleeman said. “I actually won the steer wrestling at Killdeer’s rodeo (in 2019), and there were about 90 guys, so now that we got 166 (in steer wrestling) this year, we’ll see if I still get a chance (to win.)”

Kleeman added while there is added pressure to this year’s rodeo, having the home field advantage will help make the weekend more enjoyable and help ease the tension of wanting perfection.

“Just like anything, whether it’s a homecoming game when you’re in high school, or a hometown rodeo … when you’re at home and your friends and neighbors and everybody is there to watch, you’d like it to go well,” Kleeman said.

While the event will be taking place this week, Steffan and officials will be conducting COVID-19 health precautions to make fans and participants feel more comfortable at the event, allowing for a better rodeo show for everyone in attendance and in participation.

“This year we’re not going to bring our bleachers like we have in the past,” Steffan said. “We’re just wanting people to spread out on the hill and … there’s plenty of room to people to spread out there.”

As seen in previous years, other events will be seen throughout the three-day event. Shopping and food vendors will be present, a bouncy house for children, and a street dance will be featured after rodeo night.

While Killdeer and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association are always looking forward to this annual event, Steffan agreed, this event will be one that is highly anticipated and always remembered by everyone at the event.

“We’re just excited to be able to put it on for our community again and for the contestants considering there were a lot of them that have been cancelled this year,” Steffan said. “This is an event you don’t want to miss.”

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Tickets for adults will be $15 and for children 12 and under are $5. Residents of Killdeer can buy tickets at First International Bank & Trust and American Bank Center, locals in Dickinson can buy tickets at Runnings. Fans can also purchase tickets at the local location on the day of the event.

For more information, call 701-590-6820 or log onto www.killdeermountainrounduprodeo.com

Related Topics: RODEOKILLDEER
Matthew Curry is a sports reporter and photographer for the West Central Tribune.
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