The kids took turns twirling lassos, balancing on saddles and erupted in cheers at the sight of two massive bulls.
This is not your typical day at school; this is Rodeo 101.
About 670 fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders from throughout Butte hit the Civic Center floor Tuesday morning for a slate of classes that included calf roping, barrel racing and bull
With the Northern Rodeo Association Finals coming to town Thursday through Saturday, organizers invited a new generation of fans to see how each event is done - straight from the professionals.
Cowboys and cowgirls already preparing for competition fielded plenty of questions and gave short demonstrations to show what makes rodeo such a fun and highly skilled sport.
But perhaps the biggest cheers came for Double Stud, two-time NRA saddle bronc horse of the year, and bulls Lucky and Kamikaze as they trotted out on display.
Bill Fisher, promoter with Train Wreck Productions that secured the rodeo in Butte, said they reached to schools about a field trip in July.
The lesson plan was to give kids a greater appreciation of rodeo and the overall ranching community in Montana.
"We live in a mining town, so we don't always see it, but there are people who make their living raising cattle," Fisher said. "I thought I could pass that along to these guys."
Rodeo clown David Whitmoyer, of East Helena, acted as master of ceremonies and made sure every class had enough time at all stations.
In full makeup, Whitmoyer even entertained kids by explaining what a rodeo clown does and showed how they jump into their barrels for protection.
Whitmoyer agreed there is a lot for kids to absorb from a day at the rodeo.
"I hope they take away a little of the cowboy lifestyle, what we do and what it takes to get on a bull," he said.
Guiding her own class of 20 fourth-graders from West Elementary School, Mickaela Tomsheck said she is just happy to see them immersed in a sport other than the traditional football or basketball.
"We hope they can learn about aspects of rodeo, and get some interest built up," Tomsheck said.
The NRA Finals run Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Civic Center. Until then, Fisher said they are glad to give kids a sneak peek looking right up from the dirt and down in the chutes.
"This is the real deal," he said.
- Reporter George Plaven may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.