More than 300 families will descend on the Douglas County Fairgrounds this weekend sharing common goals.
While competitors in this weekend’s Douglas County High School Rodeo, set for Saturday and Sunday, will be coming from all over the state, their plight is the same.
“Rodeo, it’s not like your average school sport,” said Valley resident Norm Denny, who is currently the president of the Nevada State High School Rodeo Association. “It’s totally self-funded. The commitment it takes just to find the practice time is something else.
“It’s a real family sport. Mom and dad are out in the arena, rounding cattle into the chutes. You’re practicing at your house or ranch. There aren’t really any team practice days, per se, you just find ways to get your practice in.”
The Douglas rodeo is one of the few times during the year where area residents can see competitive rodeo within county lines.
“This rodeo is special because it is a chance for the community to come out and be a part of it. Our local club is six kids right now. The hope with things like this is that people see it, their kids want to get involved maybe at the junior rodeo level. Then junior high school and they stay involved into high school and carry this thing along into the future.”
Denny also noted that the level of competition is unlike many sports within the high school age group.
“We’ve got barrel racers out there every weekend that are just a half-second off world record pace,” Denny said. “High school rodeo is serious. There are kids that have been honing their craft for the majority of their lives and their families have made a substantial commitment to get the right horses under them. There are kids at our rodeos every weekend that are within range of some of the top professional competitors right now.
“Nevada qualifies four kids per event for nationals every year, and that ends up being the biggest rodeo in the world. The atmosphere is incredible.”
The season can also be grueling.
The Douglas rodeo is just one of 13 stops on the state circuit that extends from fall to late spring.
Each weekend consists of two rodeo competitions.
“It amounts to 26 rodeos, and then we have state finals in Fallon and Silver State International, and nationals,” Denny said. “It’s a long season.”
Competitors have to maintain grade standards equal to that of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association, although many take home school or charter school courses to accommodate the amount of time on the road.
In addition to balancing the load of coursework and practice, Douglas County club members also spend a substantial amount of time in preparing for and finding sponsors for the home rodeo.
“It takes about $16,000 to put a rodeo on,” Denny said. “The kids have worked really hard in finding sponsors and we’ve been fortunate in this economy with people stepping up to help us out.
“It takes about 30 volunteers to have a successful day, just in having people to open the gates for the kids into the arena, or to let them out at the other end, or to handle the cattle.”
Denny said he’s enlisted the help of volunteers from China Spring Youth Camp over the past several years.
“We get six or seven kids out there to help and every year, I’ve had at least one come up to me and say they’d never seen a rodeo and ask how they could get involved when they get back home,” Denny said. “That’s so much of what this is about — just showing people an aspect of Valley life, or Nevada life, that they might not get to see otherwise.”
Admission both days is $1.
“That goes into the Nevada High School crisis rodeo fund,” Denny said. “Let’s say someone gets injured in the arena, we use that to help pay for any unforeseen costs not covered by insurance.
“We had a young lady whose horse died as a result of a heart attack in Yerington. We got together and gave her $1,500 out of the fund to help her obtain a new horse. It’s just for the unforeseen stuff.”
The Douglas club has been competing all year and just recently returned from a rodeo in Yerington.
Wyatt Denny won the all-around title for the weekend, taking first on both days in the bareback, first in bulls, first in steer wrestling, fifth and sixth in cutting and seventh in team roping.
Ashley Martinkus was second in barrels, third in cutting, ninth in poles, third in pole bending and sixth in cutting.
Cassidy Champlin was seventh in barrels and Anna Lekumberry was third in breakaway.
Wyatt Denny also won the Icebreaker Intermountain Rodeo all-around and bareback titles and the Idaho Cowboys Association Bareback Championship this year.
This weekend’s rodeo starts at 9 a.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. on Sunday. Cutting will be held at 11 a.m. today at Bently Ranch.
A snack bar with hamburgers, hot dogs and chorizo will be available.
Tommy Lee will host jackpot team roping Saturday night with more than 300 teams expected to compete. That starts about 5 p.m. and should run past midnight.
For more information, or to find out how to get involved, call Norm Denny at 775-691-7101.