DODGE CITY, Kan. – The greatest cowboys and cowgirls in a given season battle throughout the year to compete in Las Vegas in December.
What has worked for decades for professional rodeo has been passed down to the next few generations of ropers, bulldoggers, barrel racers, bull riders and bronc riders with the development of the Jr.NFR, which takes place in conjunction with the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
Dodge City Roundup Rodeo has always been a huge stopping point for NFR qualifiers, and this year it will be a qualifying stop for those hoping to compete at the Jr.NFR. The event takes place at 2 p.m. Saturday, July 28, and Sunday, July 29, at Roundup Arena.
“This will be a direct qualifier to the Central Region Finals that take place in September in Liberal (Kan.),” said Jeff Louderback, a livestock producer and event organizer from Liberal. “From there, the top kids will go to the Jr.NFR.”
There will be four age groups for the competitors: 8-under, 9-11, 12-14 and novice, which is for youth ages 15-18. For the event at Roundup Arena, the competition will feature youth in bareback riding and saddle bronc riding. Louderback will be providing the bucking stock, which includes animals of various sizes to be matched with each age division.
“I love these kids events,” said Joel Redman, vice president of the Roundup Rodeo committee. “I feel good seeing how excited these kids get and their determination to compete.”
That’s exactly why Louderback got involved in producing events nearly eight years ago.
“I used to ride broncs, and we enjoy working with kids,” he said. “This will be our third year being associated with the Jr.NFR.”
That’s because the championship in Las Vegas was created in 2016. While the Dodge City event will focus on youngsters riding bucking horses, the Jr.NFR will feature all other rodeo events.
“We’re going to have kids coming to Dodge City from all over the nation to try to qualify for the Jr.NFR,” Louderback said. “This is really a cool way for us to look at tomorrow’s champions.
“To say you get to see them now and could very well see them at the NFR one of these days is pretty special.”