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Sheyenne Rodeo brings fast-paced excitement

The Sheyenne Red River Rodeo Club kicks off the spring rodeo season by hosting its 39th annual high school rodeo this weekend at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds.

Roughly 200 students will be participating in what is one of just two rodeos in the state that combines the high school and junior high rodeos.

“It is technically four rodeos made into one big long one,” Rodeo Club President Jeff Foss said.

Each high school event will typically precede a similar junior high event – as required by the North Dakota High School Activities for such a rodeo.

“We have put it together so it works well with us bringing cattle in or setting up poles only once,” Foss said. “We have customized the order to make this as efficient as possible.”

The inclusion of junior high events means that fans of high school rodeos will get to see events they otherwise would not. These include the boys breakaway roping – available only to girls at the high school level – and chute dogging, which Foss described as a “starter course” for those interested in steer wrestling.

“In the high school event, you are riding a horse and actually coming down off of that horse onto a steer and running it down,” Foss said. “Chute dogging actually sees the steer kept in a chute, while the kid has his hand on one horn, then wrestling it down once it exits the chute. It allows them to get some form on the ground without worrying about the speed and getting off of a horse.”

Although the Sheyenne Red River Rodeo is one of the largest events in the state, the club has actually been seeing a decline in student membership over the past few years. More students are graduating than are coming into the club, due in part to the increasing urbanization of the area.

“There are less and less farms and ranches on this side of the state, and fewer kids have the opportunities here,” Foss said. “It is something we are focusing on. We are trying to recruit kids and help them out as much as we can. We certainly want to maintain this for years to come.”

While students all have their own reasons for participating, Foss believes the greatest thing they get from the rodeo is the friends they make out of their competitors from across the state.

“If you have a horse go down or your saddle goes missing, the kid you are running against will probably give you one,” Foss said. “There is competition that is very strong, yet there is a real sense of belonging.”

Fans of the rodeo, and even people unfamiliar with the event, should expect plenty of rapid excitement if they attend the fairgrounds over the weekend.

The Sheyenne Red River Rodeo begins at 4 p.m. on April 25 with cow cutting, which sees roughly 15 riders separate one cow from its group and attempt to keep it cut off from that group. The rest of the events begin at 8 a.m. the following days.