by Liz Cook
The name Bobby Steiner might not ring a bell with most people, but it sure did with Cal Ruark, the President of the Darby Rodeo Association. The two met last year outside of Murdoch’s by chance. Steiner was the World Champion Bull Rider in 1973 and comes from a long line of cowboys. He happened to be looking for an arena for his grandson, an up and coming bareback rider to practice in. Hamilton being a small town and Cal being known for all the time and work he has put into the DRA, people pointed out Cal and said ‘that’s the man to talk to’. In Steiner’s words, “it was an ironic meeting” in that both were looking for the same thing, to eventually bring a world class 5-star rodeo to the Bitterroot. Together the two planned the Riggin’ Rally. After talking for a while, an agreement was made with a handshake, and the rest is history.
The Riggin’ Rally came to life last year in Darby on a cold and dreary weekend in June. That didn’t stop the people of the Bitterroot. They packed the stands and withstood the unpleasant weather to watch the top bareback riders of the world compete in their local area. “In all my travels, I’ve never seen a group of people so tough and with so much resolve as I saw in the people from the Bitterroot,” said Steiner.
So what is a Riggin’ Rally, I had to ask Steiner as a small town girl who did not grow up in the rodeo scene. The response I got surprised me. It’s the biggest rodeo Montana will see all year, with the top 30 of the best bareback riders competing for $50,000 and the bragging rights of being the best of the best. There are only two of these events in the world. This isn’t just an amateur rodeo, it is a professional elite event that matches the toughest rodeo horses in the business against the best riders. “It’s fun, fast and furious,” according to Steiner. Cowboys come from all over the world and love the Bitterroot, the arena and the people they get to compete in front of. “We have to keep this event going, too many people love it to not continue it on,” said Steiner.
The second annual Riggin’ Rally will take place June 5th and 6th at the Richard Cromwell Memorial Rodeo Grounds in Darby. Gates open at 1 p.m. on Saturday, with the main event starting at 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 6th. On Sunday, there will be no tickets available at the gate; you must pre-purchase your tickets. A meet and greet will be held with the contestants at 2 p.m. on Sunday. The Calcutta will be at 3 p.m. and the main event starts at 4 p.m.
Tickets are still available, but are selling fast so it is best to buy tickets as soon as possible. You can purchase them online at darbyrodeo.org, or in person at Darby Wine & Spirits or Murdoch’s in Hamilton.