Rodeo’s best heading to Dodge

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World champion bareback rider Tim O'Connell competes at a recent Dodge City Roundup Rodeo. O'Connell accounts for three of the more than 100 gold buckles that will be featured at this year's rodeo. (PHOTO BY DAVID SEYMORE)

DODGE CITY, Kan. – As one of the biggest rodeos in North America – and the biggest one during its week of competition – Dodge City Roundup Rodeo has a history of attracting hundreds of cowboys and cowgirls to southwest Kansas.

The number of entries for the 2020 edition of Kansas’ grandest rodeo is extraordinary. More than 900 contestants signed up to be part of Roundup Rodeo, and many are the cream of the crop in the game. The list includes nearly 40 world champions accounting for more than 100 gold buckles between them.

They will be part of the six days of action at this year’s festivities, set for 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, July 29-Sunday, Aug. 2, at Roundup Arena; Dodge City Xtreme Bulls is set for 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, July 28.

“Since there’s been a decrease in the number of rodeos this year because of COVID-19, we were expecting to have a big number of entries,” said Dr. R.C. Trotter, president of the volunteer committee that produces the annual rodeo. “To see that we have 900 cowboys and cowgirls entered in Dodge City is telling in how much they want to compete.

“Because of the pandemic, there have been many rodeos that have canceled or been postponed, so I’m glad we’re able to give them the opportunity to make money in Dodge City.”

Though rodeo was the first professional sport to return to the field, it has suffered the effects of the coronavirus. Some rodeos have continued with limited or no fan interaction, while others have gone on as usual.

Local organizers understand, though, that Roundup Rodeo is a vital cog in what makes Ford County and all of southwest Kansas tick. It’s also important to rodeo contestants who make their livings in the game. By this time a year ago, more than a dozen contestants had earnings that had surpassed $100,000. This year, only tie-down roper Shad Mayfield and saddle bronc rider Wyatt Casper have six-digits in earnings.

Roundup features one of the biggest prize packets in ProRodeo. The committee inserts $20,000 in local money per event; those dollars are mixed with the contestants’ entry fees to make up the total purse. A year ago, for example, steer wrestler Dakota Eldridge pocketed $8,580, which helped propel the Nevada cowboy to his sixth appearance at the National Finals Rodeo and an eighth-place finish in the 2019 world standings.

“This is a big win,” Eldridge said last August. “This Dodge City buckle is pretty prestigious; it’s on the bucket list to win. This is where the money’s at, and this is a big win this time of year.”

That’s why the best of the best will be in Dodge City. The event is enshrined in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and is a regular nominee for the PRCA’s Large Outdoor Rodeo of the Year. This year’s rodeo also will feature renowned trick rider Madison MacDonald and rodeo funnyman Justin Rumford, the reigning eight-time Clown of the Year.

“We want this community to celebrate this summer, and having the best in rodeo is a good way to do it,” Trotter said.


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