The unpredictability is part of the fun. That, and the fact it’s nothing that a person’s ever going to see on TV, Justin Holcomb said, as he talked up this year’s ranch rodeo event at the Campbell County Fair on July 30.
“It’s very unorthodox,” he said. “You just don’t know what’s going to happen. It can be anything.”
For those unfamiliar with ranch rodeo, it’s a competition involving everyday ranching chores with a big dose of entertainment. Teams of four compete in events like trailer loading, doctoring, sorting cattle and milking. The skills are based on everyday ranching duties, Holcomb noted, but the events – such as wild cow milking – are definitely amped up to please the crowd.
Holcomb, now market president at First Northern Bank, grew up ranching and has been competing in the event for six years since the event was first added to the annual fair. He’s a part of the First Northern Bank team with long-time buddies Paxton Mackey, Quinn Larson and Pat Daly.
Sometimes, the teams are switched from year to year, depending on availability, but knowing your teammates and their particular skills goes a long way when it comes to winning, Holcomb said. But sometimes not. It just depends.
“You can’t train for it,” he said. “You communicate with each other and do your best. Other times, you just harass them.”
That’s part of the fun, he said with a grin. And unlike professional rodeos, he added, you’ll likely see these competitors with cold beers in their hands. Winning is the objective but not like other competitive rodeo events. Rather, they’re out to have fun with friends and neighbors, while giving others a taste of ranching life — and bragging rights.
“Some years we’ve won,” Holcomb quipped with a smile. “Others, we’ve done quite poorly.”
Right now, he said there are 13 teams currently signed up but there’s room for 20 teams, and they’re hoping to add more up until the July 25 cutoff for registration.
This year, as in year’s past, teams will be auctioned off in a Calcutta beginning at 5 p.m., with the event beginning at 6 p.m. The top three winning teams can garner bets anywhere from $250 to $2000 in the pool, with 15-20% being donated back to youth ag programs.
The ranch rodeo, true to the mission of county fair, is all about supporting kids in agriculture and maintaining the historic way of life and long-standing backbone of the Wyoming economy. As Holcomb noted, cowboys are aging out and there’s a big gap in the ensuing generations, which is something the 39-year-old and others would like to see reversed.
Will LaDuke, who is both a rancher and rodeo coach at Gillette College, is also a proponent of supporting kids in ag. Like Holcomb, he’s been competing for the past six years. And like Holcomb, he’s been on both sides of the winning circle on the Kerry Hayden and other Hayden Ranch teams.
For his part, LaDuke likes the doctoring events and anything involving roping. He, too, shares Holcomb’s laidback strategy, noting it’s not about the competition but rather getting together with friends and having fun.
“Nobody takes it too seriously,” he said. “It’s a fun way to celebrate the last day of fair and get a lot of good local ranchers together.”
Moreover, he added, it’s a fun event for spectators.
“It’s pretty exciting,” he said. “Once in a while there’s a couple of wrecks, and the beer is always cold.”
The Campbell County Fair Ranch Rodeo takes place Thursday, July 30, at 6 p.m. at the Cam-Plex Morningside Park (with Calcutta starting at 5 p.m.). Due to COVID-19 public health concerns and restrictions, seating in the stands will be limited to 500 people though alternative seating will be available, depending on the size of the crowd. The event will also be live-streamed on Campbell County Wyoming Government Facebook page and posted to ccgov.net/ccfair daily.
“This year’s event has a limited capacity due to attendance restrictions tied to the virus, so if you want to drink beer and watch some crazy cowboys/girls try to pull on some wild cow teats, ya better show up on time,” three-year Campbell County Fair Board Member Casey Elkins said Tuesday, noting that future ranch rodeo bronc busters will be featured in this year’s Ranch Rodeo’s mutton busting and mini bronc riding events.
“Come preview the next generation’s up and coming rodeo stars,” Elkins added.
New Campbell County Fair Coordinator Elizabeth Edwards reiterated the novelty of the event as an opportunity to both get a taste of ranching life while catching up with old friends.
“I love attending each year,” she said. “It’s like a friend’s reunion.”
The deadline for teams to enter is July 25 with room for up to 20 with an entry fee of $400 per team.
For more information, click here.
To enter, contact the Campbell County Fair Office at (307) 687-0200 or visit ccgov.net/ccfair.