The NRA is set to deliver the Mountain Health Co-Op Tour again with the start of the 2022 season
By JOE KUSEK
May 31, 2022
What do you do after answering a challenge with resounding success?
“Be bigger and better,” said Joe Warner, the president of the Northern Rodeo Association.
The Mountain Health Co-Op Tour will deliver again when the 2022 season begins with Conrad Whoop Trail Days, June 3-4. Conrad is the annual season opener for the NRA and Northern Women’s Rodeo Association.
Coming off a COVID pandemic-challenged 2020, the NRA and NWRA came back with one of its strongest years ever in the long-storied history of the two premier organizations.
In 2021, committees put together rodeos with renewed vigor. Membership numbers were up, entries were up and attendance was up.
The action in the arenas matched the positives in the books.
More than 100 cowboys and cowgirls returned to their communities with NRA/NWRA money won. Knowing the quality of rodeos and stock, competitors from nine different states and Canada traveled Montana’s long roads to Mountain Health Coo-Op Tour events.
The season ended with a rousing Finals at Majestic Valley Arena, one of the state’s finest facilities, in Kalispell.
How good was the competition?
Only $1.19 – the price of a convenience store soft drink – separated the top two bareback riders. Event champions were decided on the final day of the season.
“Our 2021 was a fantastic year … just an outstanding year,” Warner said.
And 2022 will be bigger, that’s a guarantee.
The Mountain Health Co-Op Tour will feature 32 rodeos this year, up from 28 a year ago.
Joining the NRA/NWRA family is the community of Jardine. The town will be hosting four separate Hell’s A-Roarin’ Guts N Glory rodeos, June 23 and 24 and again July 29 and 30.
“That shows the program is building,” said Warner. “We’re looking forward, not backing up. It’s all positive.”
The NRA and NWRA, always a showcase for rodeo’s future, is offering half-price permits for high school and first-year college competitors.
That future was on full display in 2021 when the bareback riding was dominated by cowboys barely old enough to shave while members of the national champion Montana State University women’s rodeo team could be found all over the barrel racing and breakaway roping standings.
The 2021 NRA/NWRA Finals boasted two national champions. National high school bareback champion Sam Petersen, and Paige Rasmussen of MSU, the College National Finals Rodeo national champion in goat tying. Rasmussen competed in breakaway roping at the Mountain Health Co-Op Tour’s top event.
“So much talent,” Warner marveled. “It’s so fun to see the kids compete. It’s so exciting to see some of the kids coming back. And we have our long-time established competitors. We love every one of them.”
And the NRA and NWRA is joining the Generation Next in their technology.
This year, competitors can use their hand-held devices to enter online. They can take a break from texting friends to getting set up at rodeos across the state.
“They can just go to the schedule page, hit the button by the rodeo and click,” said Theresa Sorlie the executive secretary for the NRA and NWRA. “It takes less time on the phone. It’s a time benefit for both parties.
“It’s quick, simple and really clean.”
All the rodeos from 2021 return. Following Conrad, competitors will be in Culbertson and Poplar the following weekend. There are 11 weekends this summer were cowboys and cowgirls will have multiple choices of where to ride, rope and race.
The Fourth of July run features rodeos in Harlowton, Ennis and Choteau, part of the NRA/NWRA schedule for generations.
The regular season concludes Labor Day weekend with events in Hamilton and Helmville.
The Mountain Health Co-Op Tour culminates with the 48thAnnual NRA/NWRA Finals, Oct. 27-29 in Kalispell.
The NRA and NWRA has an unmatched history of producing champions.