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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rodeo: Days of '76 keeps building on tradition

Rodeo: Days of '76 keeps building on tradition 
Joe Kavanaugh

That the Deadwood Days of ’76 Rodeo is one of the best in the country has been common knowledge to Black Hills area rodeo fans for years.
For pro rodeo’s governing body, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, that view’s been shared for about as long. The Days of ’76 has been named rodeo of the year on 11 occasions, including the last seven years in succession.
And now, finally, the rodeo’s enduring excellence has been proclaimed and preserved for posterity. The rodeo was induction into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame earlier this month. 
“We had 53 people go down for the ceremony,” longtime Days of ’76 Rodeo chairman Pat Roberts said. “We have won rodeo of the year 11 times, and that’s absolutely wonderful, but being inducted into the PRCA Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs (Colo.) is a lifetime achievement, and it is going to be there forever. My grandkids and my great-great grandkids will be able to go there and see that we have done something very special here.”
This year’s 89th annual edition should continue that special tradition, as more than 650 of the country’s best cowboys and cowgirls once again return to one of the most scenic rodeo arena in America.
Two-time world champion steer roper Rocky Patterson, who won two go-rounds in Tuesday’s opening steer roping event,  best captured the aura and charm that surrounds Deadwood and its historic rodeo.
“You gotta come to Deadwood,” he said.  “The first thing is that they put up a lot of money and it’s a good rodeo. The climate and the scenery are unbelievable, which is why everybody likes to come up here and kick back. I left my house in Pratt, Kan., yesterday and the temperature was 106, and we’ve had 38 days in a row over 100. So I was really ready to be in Deadwood.”
And come they will. The cream of the crop of the PRCA and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association circuits includes past world champions, current  event leaders — every 2011 leader will be on-hand — and, of course, the best South Dakota and the Badlands Circuit has to offer.
Virtually every event will feature a who’s who of professional rodeo, starting right out of the chute with bareback riding. Current world leader Will Lowe will match bumpy rides with the likes of Tilden Hooper, Kaycee Field, Steven
Peebles and Clint Cannon. Not to be overlooked is Rapid City’s Scott Montague, who claimed second in last year’s rodeo. Agar cowboy Joe Gunderson will also try to regain a top-15 spot.
Eight of the top 10 steer wrestlers will challenge current world leader and former world champion Luke Branquinho. Among them will be a couple of South Dakota cowboys — Hermosa’s Todd Suhn (currently fifth in the world) and his cousin, Jake Rinehart (Highmore, seventh). They’re each chasing another trip to Las Vegas and December’s lucrative National Finals Rodeo.
In South Dakota’s signature event, saddle bronc, current world champion Cody Wright (Milford, Utah) will try to fight off the challenge of Taos Muncy, a Corona, N.M., cowboy and brother-in-law of Mud Butte rider Cody Taton. He and other South Dakota challengers Chad Ferley (Oelrichs) and Jeff Willert (Belvidere) will be present. Joining them will be 2010 NFR qualifier J.J. Elshere (Quinn), defending champion Cole Elshere (Faith), and Camp Crook’s Jesse Bail, who is just off a big win in Spanish Fork, Utah.
Each performance will close with bull riding. The list of contestants coming in this year should keep the stands packed until the very last ride, as nine of the top 10 bull riders will be in action. Three-time defending champion J.W. Harris (Mullin, Texas) leads the least of riders chasing current leader Shane Proctor (Grand Coulee, Wash).
In WPRA barrel racing, a couple of South Dakota cowgirl legends, Lisa Lockhart of Oelrichs and Jill Moody of Letcher, return to protect the home turf.

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