High school rodeo circuit hits Big Timber

Chris Aiken, Pioneer Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 30, 2018

As the sun rose over the fairgrounds on Sunday, the dirt in the arena was dry and silty despite the previous afternoon’s shower. The new timber on the south wall gleamed in the morning light, as did the new bull-riding chutes. Nearby, a small village of white horse trailers had sprung up in the parking lot. Rubber roping calves sat gnome-like next to tailgates. A pigtail of smoke rose from a steel fire pit.  A mare’s snout disappeared into a black feed bucket as a freight train lumbered past Big Timber.

Such was the scene as 15th annual Big Timber High School Rodeo opened on May 27. Contestants came from all over central Montana, many seeking to qualify for the State Final Rodeo in Baker, MT, which takes place June 4-9. The riders competed in pole bending, steer wrestling, calf roping, goat tying, bronc and bull riding, and barrel racing. 

On Sunday evening, high schoolers contended in a charity barrel race to raise money for Sage Lindsay, a Bozeman rider who was recently diagnosed with cervical cancer. Lindsay was admitted to the U.S. Naval Academy before she was medically disqualified because of her diagnosis. The proceeds were meant to help Lindsay offset the cost of traveling to Seattle for radiation treatment. 

PHOTO: Check out some quick snapshots from the weekend's high school rodeo

Typically a female event, the field in Sunday’s Jackpot barrel race included steer wrestlers, calf ropers and bareback riders. Some of the boys wore their satin scarves backwards like capes, and there was plenty of “hootin’ and hollerin’,” according to Ronda Johnston, who co-organized the event along with husband Rod. 

To the girls’ dismay, one of the boys nearly stole the show, clinging to the fastest time until he was dethroned by the last gal in the draw.  

“It was fun,” Johnston said. “The calf roping horses aren’t used to it. They get up to the barrel and think it’s the bogey man.” 

The benefit race, which raised roughly $2,400, was organized by Sierra Belvin of Reed Point, who was crowned Miss Montana High School Rodeo in 2017. Belvin also rides with Sage Lindsay on the Bridger Mountain Rodeo Team in Bozeman. 

“She’s a warrior, that’s for sure,” Belvin said of her teammate. “She just wants to ride in rodeos, and we want to help her in anyway we can.” 

Belvin purchased teal ribbons — the color for cervical cancer — which were sold at the rodeo to raise additional money, and a team roping event will be held at the state rodeo competition in Baker on June 6 as another benefit to Lindsay’s cause. Belvin will also look to defend her title as Miss Montana High School Rodeo.