Big Weekend Ahead for the NRA

By JOE KUSEK

June 26, 2020

At first glance, Big Timber and Opheim do not have much in common.


Big Timber is located in south-central Montana between two mountain ranges at the confluence of the Yellowstone and Boulder Rivers.


Opheim is a sturdy little community in the northeast corner of the state, 10 miles from the Canadian border.


Big Timber is celebrating the 97th anniversary of its annual rodeo, a good many of those years sanctioned by the Northern Rodeo Association and Northern Women’s Rodeo Association.


“We try to make it the best it can be,” said Ronda Johnston, who along with husband Rod, son Jake and daughter-in-law Chelsie produce the rodeo with their company B Bar T.


Opheim is rejoining the NRA and NWRA family this summer after being away almost 30 years.


While different, both rodeo committees share a common goal. To put on the best show possible for the fans and the contestants who saddle up to compete.


“We’re excited,” said Opheim stock contractor Dewayne Ozark of flying the NRA/NWRA banner again in the arena. “Being with the NRA gives us that extra punch.”


Big Timber is having performances Friday and Saturday while Opheim will have a Sunday show.


Entries are also being taken for the Fourth of July rodeos in Harlowton and Ennis.


All NRA/NWRA events will be operating under a strict set of guidelines for handling the COVID-19 situation.


Big Timber is adding additional entrances and has re-diagrammed the arena to limit seating to groups of 50 or less.


“We’ll be at about 40 percent of what we can seat,” Johnston said. She added that handling the COVID-19 issue had been a community effort putting together a unified health command. “We have discussed all aspects.”


The same group has already put on a high school rodeo earlier this year and is now ready for the bigger stage where rodeo’s stars emerge.


Wanting to showcase local rodeo athletes and its stock was the motivation for Opheim rejoining the NRA and NWRA this year.


“Being part of the NRA would attract more contestants,” said Ozark. “For the most part, its worked. We’ve seen increases in all our rough stock entries.”


Ozark is part of the three-person group who owns the newly-formed Treasure State Rodeo Company. Ozark handles the stock for the roping events, while Shane Vaira provides the bucking horses. Rick Whitford is in charge of the stock for steer wrestling and bulls.

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