GRANGEVILLE The mid-week date of this year’s Independence Day put Border Days organizers to a tough choice, but in the end, the rodeo — both fans and contestants — made a strong showing.
“It was good, and our gates were a little above average this year,” Border Days Committee past president and rodeo organizer Brad Arnzen told the Free Press Tuesday, July 10. “Our first rodeo, our family night, was one of the biggest we’ve ever had, I think. Fan-wise, we did pretty good.”
One of the first rides of the 2018 Border Days Rodeo ended up one of the best. One of the most hotly-contested categories in this year’s three-day event saw 19 competitors deliver eight qualified saddle bronc rides — and 71 points was good only for a share of a four-way split. The man who distinguished himself Wednesday night, July 4, has won here before, and with a 79, Danny Alires won the John Marek Memorial Buckle once again.
A 71 won that event for Alires back in 2011; this year, his ride scored even better and his prize came out slightly bigger. He won $1,200 — and that amount ended up being the 2018 Border Days single biggest award.
Alires’ saddle bronc rides have scored in the top three several times.
For many competitors, the buckle — custom-made by Jeff Ratcliff of Cottonwood — is the important prize.
“Guys come for that — for the buckle we give away for Johnny Marek,” Arnzen said. “He was killed riding saddle bronc in 2003, and we decided the next year to start giving that buckle away. We’ll do that forever.”
Two breakaway ropers also won thousand-dollar prizes, with Rylee Potter’s 2.2-second catch edging out the 2.6-second stoppage Kalena Webb posted at the outset last Wednesday.
Potter’s award exceeded $1,100, Webb’s worked out to slightly more than $1,000, and the breakaway ropers won a combined total of more than $5,000.
Ten others won more than $800, including the third-placer in breakaway, the runners-up in saddle bronc, steer wrestling and team roping, and the following event champions: bull rider Shane Olney, barrel racer Ellie Beukelman, tie down roper Brady Brower, team ropers Jace Mitchell and Casey Brunson and steer wrestler Matt Mundell.
In the second annual Lee Woods Memorial Team Roping local event, Cassie Woods and Dace Woods had two catches in a first-place time of 22.4 seconds.
Jake Lish and Mark Bledsoe placed second with two in 31.8 seconds, and Kyle Pottala and Carl Pottala placed third with one in 9.3 seconds.
The local junior barrels title went to Macenzie Farris with a time of 19.529 seconds, about two-tenths faster than Colby Canaday and Kaylee Page, about four-tenths faster than Grace Vopat and Molly Johnson.
In all, the rodeo awarded $33,125, despite the mid-week July 4 — a septennial occurance that splits crowds over two weekends and keeps away some of the regular competitors who have weekday commitments to tend.
“It’s a guessing game,” Arnzen said. “This year we could easily have gone with the first, second and third — or the fourth, fifth and sixth like we did. ... It’s a guess, what would accommodate the most people. If we would have gone the other way, people could complain we should have done like we did. You just have to make a decision and live with it. And we’re plumb happy. The first day at the egg toss, there were 1,800 people and over 900 eggs.”
The big turnout in the streets carried over to rodeo attendance that night.
In 2019, July 4 falls on a Thursday — and while that might make the decision a little more predictable, the committee hasn’t yet chosen rodeo dates and Arnzen didn’t speculate.
“We’ll tie at least one day into the weekend, for sure,” he said. “We’ll need to make a decision on it, and we’ll announce that probably in August or September.”