2021 Season Ready To Launch
By JOE KUSEK
May 25, 2021
This is more than just a new season for the Northern Rodeo Association and the Northern Women’s Rodeo Association.
It’s a re-do, a rebirth, if you will.
“Onward and upward, bigger and better,” declared Joe Warner, the NRA president.
Bigger? The numbers don’t lie.
Better? No doubt.
After a difficult 2020 because of the COVID pandemic, the 2021 version will begin with Conrad Whoop-Up Days, June 4-5.
And with a new season, comes a new name.
The NRA and NRWA rodeos will be flying the Mountain Healthcare CO-OP NRA Tour banner all summer long.
A year ago, varying COVID regulations in counties around the state limited the NRA/NWRA to 13 rodeos. Despite no Finals, year-end champions were still crowned and recognized for their achievements.
There were six first-time champions a year ago, while others like bareback rider J2 Bridges, all-around cowboy Ben Ayre and all-around cowgirl Tammy Jo Carpenter continue to add to their rodeo legacies.
“I think it was disappointing we didn’t get to have more rodeos,” said Cierra Erickson, the NWRA president. “It was just one of those years no one ever saw coming.
“A lot of people worked hard and stuck together. People just said, ‘We’re going to do this.’ It was fun to see people partner through this and get it done.”
This summer, there are 29 sanctioned rodeos, with 10 weekends offering multiple events for contestants. The Fourth of July run includes the traditional stops in Harlowton, Ennis and Choteau.
The schedule also includes an expanded Red Eye Daze in Deer Lodge, July 15-17, which will feature a long round and a short round across three performances.
And in August 5-7, there will be four rodeos – Dodson, Butte, Superior and Townsend – scheduled across four days for both fans and competitors.
“We want to make up for lost ground,” said Warner. “We’re definitely on the uprise for everything.”
The 2021 regular season will conclude Labor Day weekend with events in Hamilton, Saco and Helmville. Saco is new to the NRA/NWRA family.
“The feeling from the communities and committees in those towns is a real enthusiasm about having rodeo again,” said Erickson, herself a former NWRA all-around and breakaway roping champion. “It’s really promising after a difficult year. The contestants are over the top thrilled.”
While the rodeos are scattered across Montana, all roads for the Mountain Healthcare CO-OP NRA Tour lead to Kalispell for the NRA/NWRA Finals, Oct. 28-30 at Majestic Valley Arena.
The top 10 in each event qualify for the organizations’ premier event.
“We need to take a moment and recognize the tremendous people who pulled it all together for us last year,” Warner said. “So many committees felt it was taken away from them through no fault of their own. And so many committees pulled off a miracle.
“We were able to salvage last season. We want to pick up from there and make this coming year our biggest and best year.
“We’re ready to get started.”