The Last Chance Stampede Rodeo is back, and the 57th annual event features a slate of talented cowboys.
The stock will once again be provided from Kesler Championship Rodeo, a contractor from here in the Queen City.
Highlighting a crop of some of the best cowboys in the world is Helena’s own Ty Erickson, a Capital High graduate. Erickson leads the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world standings in steer wrestling, sitting with earnings of $128,001.08. He’ll be competing in the slack on Thursday night, and is just $2,000 away from breaking Wade Sumpter’s 2008 PRCA regular season record of $130,000.
Another top-of-the-rankings cowboy set to compete is Texan Jacobs Crawley, who leads the world in saddle bronc riding. Crawley has earned $132,706.58. He will be in action on Thursday night as well.
The PRCA’s reigning team roping champions -- Levi Simpson of Ponoka, Alberta, and Jeremy Buhler of Arrowwood, Alberta -- will be in the Queen City with high hopes. Simpson currently sits at No. 8 as a header, making $59,696.28. Buhler is 10th with similar earnings.
Other Montanans sitting in the Top 20 of the world standings in their respective events are Cut Back’s Dustin Bird, Billings’ Clay Tryan, Polson’s John Robertson and Sand Coulee’s Tyrell J. Smith.
Bird sits at 14th in the standings as a header, having racked up $47,086.55.
Tryan, also a header, ranks 19th with his $39,222.27.
Robertson comes in at 18th as a heeler. He’s pulled in $37,222.27 this season.
Smith is the 15th-ranked bronc rider so far this summer. He’s pocketed $48,367.19.
Appearing in the nearly 400 registered cowboys and cowgirls are a few returning champions from 2016, including another local product, Timmy Sparing.
Sparing won the steer wrestling title last year in a time of 3.7 seconds. He pocketed $2,465 for his work.
The all-around champion, Hank Hollenbeck, is slated to make his return. Hollenbeck placed second in steer wrestling last year in a time of 3.8 seconds, while also competing in tie-down roping and team roping. Hollenbeck is currently leading the Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit with $5,047.85.
Bareback champion Jesse Davis of Power will be back on the horse this weekend. Davis put up an 83-point performance riding on Kesler Rodeo’s Alley Street, racking up $1,824.
Last year’s saddle bronc champion, Ryder Wright, is scheduled to give it another go. Wright scored 83 points on Show & Tell and secured the title.
The event had Marty Yates scheduled to defend his title in tie-down roping, but the cowboy has since pulled out.
And on the bulls, Parker Breding is set to defend his 2016 win. Breding of Edgar, Montana, scored 84 points on Strange Tale, pocketing $2,498. Breding is also off to a strong season in the MRPC. He leads the bull riders with $4,539.87. He’s qualified for the Montana Circuit Rodeo Finals six times and won it five. Breding will be a name to watch, as he’s also qualified for the Wrangler National Rodeo Finals twice (2013, 2015).
Fans can once again expect to hear from Wayne Brooks, the three-time PRCA Rodeo Announcer of the Year, as they fill the 4,600-seat grandstands.
The Stampede begins at 7:30 p.m. Thursday and carries through Saturday. Tickets can be purchased from $15-21 for adults and $5-21 for kids.