Rod Freeman, chair of the Rockin’ RC Rodeo Committee, is feeling pretty good about this year’s rodeo, which takes place annually at the Ravalli County Fair. By way of vote among members of the Northern Rodeo Association (NRA), the Rockin’ RC Rodeo was once again named the Platinum Rodeo of the Year.
“There is no higher honor than to be recognized by cowboy contestants, contract personnel, and directors,” said Joe Warner, President of the Northern Rodeo Association. “The NRA is one of the largest rodeo associations in the country because of our great rodeo committees.”
The Northern Rodeo Association currently produces approximately 30 rodeos in the state of Montana annually and boasts more than 800 active members. The Rodeo of the Year is selected by the top 15 cowboys and cowgirls along with the board of directors of the NRA.
Freeman said that the rodeo committee puts on more than just the NRA Rodeo which is on Friday and Saturday of the fair. They also have the Ranch Rodeo on Wednesday and Bulls n’ Broncs on Thursday.
Freeman said the “platinum” designation has to do with the size of the purses (the amount of money the contestants can win).
“In previous years they gave the award to one rodeo,” said Freeman. “But the rodeos that added more money are now in the Platinum Division. Those with less money are in the Gold Division.”
“The added money is the money we put into the purse (the payout) for the cowboys,” said Freeman. “We do that so we get the best cowboys, so we get the best performance for the crowd. We add more money to each event. Ours is also the next to last rodeo of the season. Everyone is competing for the finals which just happened in Kalispell.”
Freeman said it helps that they have Red Eye Rodeo out of Deer Lodge as their stock contractor. Red Eye had the Bareback Bucking Horse of the Year, the Saddle Bronc of the Year and the Bucking Bull of the Year, awarded by the NRA. “Their livestock is recognized as the best,” said Freeman.
Freeman, who also serves on the Ravalli County Fair Board, said, “For the last 12 or 14 years we have not charged to get into the rodeo, only to get into the fair. So once people are in the fair they can attend the rodeo for free. We wanted to increase the fan base and it’s worked. We have standing room only [at the rodeo] for at least three nights every year.”
“The cowboys love it,” said Freeman. “It’s a sport like any other, they like to compete in front of an audience. The bigger the audience, the better they like it.”
Freeman said not charging for rodeo admission also works the other way around – it increases the fair attendance and income. He said there’s a steady stream of people going in before the rodeo, as well as the money they spend on food, etc.
Freeman estimated that they have an audience of about 3000 each night at the rodeo. “That’s one of the problems we have right now,” said Freeman, and more seating is needed, “but it’s a good problem to have. We’re working to address that.”
Freeman and Jim Stenger, arena director, attended the recent awards ceremony in Kalispell.
Theresa Sorlie, Executive Secretary of the NRA, stated, “The NRA is very proud to present the 2022 Platinum Rodeo of the Year award to the Rockin’ RC Rodeo. We want to thank the committee for the countless hours that they dedicate to rodeo and the continued development of our association and the sport of rodeo.”
“This award is a tribute not only to our facility but to the hard work that the rodeo committee does,” said Freeman. “All of the events are managed and supported by the rodeo committee and volunteers. It’s not a one man show.”