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"The real cowboys" -- Arena records set at 49th annual Roughrider Days Rodeo

“Rodeo is what rodeo is. Rodeo no matter what, the only time we’re gonna shut it down is if there’s lightning that’s close enough to make the hair stand up on the back of your neck or a tornado, and I’ve seen ‘em ride bulls through a tornado before in South Dakota.” -- Leon Kristianson, Roughrider Commission

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Canadian cowboy Spur Lacasse set a Stark County Fairgrounds rodeo arena record on Saturday with an 86-point bareback bronc ride, setting a grand tone for the final day of the three-day 49th annual Roughrider Days Rodeo.

The Roughrider Days Rodeo has been the soul of the annual Roughrider Days Fair and Expo that comes every year to Dickinson, and this year, the 49th annual, sees a rodeo which continues to grow and continues to draw in big crowds -- and top talent.

“A lot of it has to do with the cowboys you draw and that goes back to the stock contractors you have,” Leon Kristianson, rodeo superintendent for the Roughrider Commission, who sponsor and organize the Roughrider Days Fair and Expo and rodeo each year. “Korkow Rodeo is probably one of the top stock contractors in the world. That’s where it all comes, you start with the stock contractor and the cowboys follow the stock contractor. If the stock contractor is good, you get the good cowboys.”

There were definitely plenty of good cowboys saddled up throughout all three days of rodeo competition, hailing from all over the United States as well as abroad. In fact, Canadian Spur Lacasse set a new arena record by scoring 86 points with a white-knuckle bareback ride on Korkow Rodeos’ Asian Orchid.

“Bareback riders are few and far between. We had three turn out the first night, four turn out the second night and now we have all of them except one tonight … it’s one of those events that’s extremely hard on your body and kids just, it’s probably not … a thing they want to get into, they wanna be a bull rider or a bronc rider,” Kristianson said. “You gotta get them started, get them to the right schools, teach them how to do it.”

The Stark County Fairgrounds has hosted the Roughrider Days rodeo for the past three years now, and Kristianson hailed the venue for the comforts it offers spectators and contestants.

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“It’s a beautiful facility, it’s probably one of the top notches in the country … this is by far what we’ve been looking for for over 30 years,” Kristianson said. “It’s the covered grandstands and the viewing from the covered grandstands … it’s the great concession stand, the great grandstands, that’s where it’s all at.”

This weekend’s rodeo saw some sweltering temperatures, but this was a marked improvement from last year’s conditions, which Kristianson described as a “bad year”.

“We try to grow every year. Last year was really a bad year for us, we had seven inches of rain on all three days of our performance … it’s all a game of trying to get people out,” He said. “Rodeo is what rodeo is. Rodeo no matter what, the only time we’re gonna shut it down is if there’s lightning that’s close enough to make the hair stand up on the back of your neck or a tornado, and I’ve seen ‘em ride bulls through a tornado before in South Dakota.”

Kristianson said that emphasizing the entertainment value of the rodeo has become a larger goal over the years, and he hopes to instill a love of rodeo in old hands and newcomers alike.

“It’s not just a rodeo, it’s entertainment. We try and get our rodeo done in two hours, two hours fifteen minutes depending on how the bulls get out of the arena. A lot of it, this is entertainment. It’s not just a rodeo anymore,” Kristianson said. “We’re trying to make people happy and you don’t even have to know rodeo to come here and love it, because it’s entertainment.”

That said, rodeo represents a way of life that appeals strongly to a certain few.

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A pick-up rider comes alongside a horse to rope him in and take him out of the arena following a ride during the Roughrider Days Rodeo in Dickinson on Saturday.

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"You get kids from the city doing it, but it’s a way of life. I look at our pick-up men and they use their horses in the winter time to feed cows, he hooks his horses up to wagon and pitches hay off his wagon,” Kristianson said. “That’s the kind of guys who are cowboys. There are getting to be fewer and fewer cowboys out there. I mean, you get cowboys, but not the real cowboys.”

The All-around cowboy was Lane Day, from Bartlett, Nebraska who took home $2,347 and took top marks in tie-down roping and steer wrestling. Colt Floyd of Buffalo, SD, with a time of 4.3 seconds, won first place in steer wrestling. Lane Goebel and Lucas Falconer won first place in team roping with a 5 second finish, scooping up over $2,000 each. JJ Elshere of Hereford, SD won top marks in saddle bronc riding astride Redemption; Lane Day won first place in the tie-down roping with an 8.9 second finish.

Caroline Kelly finished first in the barrel races with a 17.27 second finish, taking home $2,378. Adam Lucero took first place in bull riding with 86.5 points.

The day’s total payoff was $73,506.

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There was plenty of grit and determination on display at the Roughrider Days Rodeo this weekend, which saw a total payout of over $70,000 and participation by cowboys from around the world.

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