By Chuck Reherman
In Yukon, the first weekend in August means one thing.
It’s rodeo time.
The 18th annual Yukon FFA IPRA Rodeo will get underway at 8 p.m. for its two-day run Friday and Saturday at the Canadian Cowboy Church Rodeo Arena (formerly the Yukon Round-Up Club Arena). And it is expected to bring in some of the top cowboys in the IPRA and ACRA to compete.
Advance tickets are on sale for $6 (tickets will be $8 at the gate). Tickets can be purchased from any FFA or 4-H member.
This is the fifth year that the rodeo has been sanctioned as an IPRA event and professional cowboys from the Central and Southern Divisions will compete.
Stock Contractor Rusty Moreland of the Rockin’ R Ranch returns run the rodeo and will have quality bucking stock to challenge the cowboys in both saddle and bareback bronc and bull riding. The Rockin R Ranch has been the stock contractor for the rodeo since the Yukon FFA Booster Club took over the event in 2001 and said it is one of his favorite rodeos to work.
The rodeo will feature some past and present IPRA World Champions competing as well as up and coming cowboys and cowgirls.
“We get a lot of our cowboys from the Southern Division of the IPRA, but they will come from all over to compete. In the past, we had a couple of cowboys from the east coast compete in the rodeo and they have come from all over. We are looking for another good group of contestants this rodeo.
“We will get some of the best cowboys and cowgirls around to compete in the rodeo,” he said. “And, we have some good stock of bulls and broncs that will challenge the cowboys. Our bulls have really been bucking good this year and we will bring a stellar group.”
Some of the cowboys expected to compete include Mark Justin Kreder of Collinsville, Austin Graham of Euchs, who currently leads the Southern Tour bareback bronc division. Also riding will be A.J. Yocham of Haskell, who finished second last year and Preston Minson, who took third.
Clayton Lawson, who has won the bareback event that last three years, is also expected to compete. Lawson scored an 86.5 time in winning last year.
Cody Goertzen of Tuttle, who currently leads the saddlebronc riding in the Southern Division, is expected to return to compete. Also expected back is Blaine Stacey of Blanchard, who won the event last year with a 67.
Also expected to compete is Tex Benfer of Tupelo and Sean Prater of Muskogee.
A first did happen at the rodeo that has not happened in the 17 years during last year’s event. The first night of bullriding saw all the riders complete the eight second ride. And for the rodeo, all but three made the eight second ride. In past years it was only two or three riders that would make the ride and several years no rider would complete the ride.
“With the rodeo growing and getting the IPRA cowboys, you get a more talented group of riders and it makes it better for the rodeo,” Moreland said. “We brought some good bulls and broncs and the crowd enjoys it more when the cowboys make the ride.”
The top three bullriders came from Friday night, where four riders had a score of 75 or higher.
Caleb McCaslin of Jones won the event with a high score of 87. Westin Wilson of Apache, had set the tone of the event with a score of 85 and finished second. Riley Jeffries of Luther took third with a score of 84.
Some of the top bullriders in the Southern Division that are expected to compete include Tanton Eldred of Roff, Wrangler Dunda of Stafford and Tyler Kilsal.
Steer wrestling makes it fourth return to the rodeo and Henryetta’s Tanner McElhaney and Austin Mason are expected to compete along with Walt Sherry of Atwood and Robert McMillan of Allen.
Twister Smith of Jones had the fastest time of 9.9 seconds to win the claf roping event last year. Kiel Rowan turned in a time of 10.3 seconds for second and Kerry Burks Jr. had a 10.8 second time to finish third.
Team ropers J.C. King of Stilwell and Okmulgee’s Cole Bailey and Glenn Jackson are expected to compete. Also expected to compete is the team of Brent Mibb and Roy Shoop who won last year a time of 5.1 seconds. Clay Shoop and Ryan Tittle finished second in 6.0 seconds. Rob Holland and J.D. Holland was third in 6.3 seconds and Paul Hefner and Billy Barnes took fourth.
Jeannie McKee won the barrel racing in 16.95 seconds last year. Leslie Smalygo finished second in 16.98 seconds and Kris Burden took third in 17.3 and are expected to compete.
Brandy Sams of Beggs, Kynder Starr of Catoosa and Cheyenne MGuire of Rolf are also expected to compete in the cowgirls barrel racing.
Along with top cowboys and cowgirls, the rodeo will have the return of rodeo clown/bullfighter Michael ‘Goobie’ Smith and rodeo announcer Rich Kaye.
Kaye has been announcing rodeos for 30 years, including both IPRA and PRCA.
“We also have a funny man (rodeo clown) Michael ‘Goobie’ Smith, that the crowd will enjoy with his new routines returning,” he added. “And, we have a great announcer, Rich Kaye, that will also keep the crowd entertained and informed.”
Moreland has been the stock contractor since the inception of the FFA sponsored rodeo (he was also the contractor in previous rodeos) and said with this rodeo affiliating itself with the IPRA has made the event more competitive and entertaining.
“With the IPRA, you get a better quality of contestants and that makes for a better rodeo,” Moreland said. “Fans want to see the bronc and bullriders make those eight second rides and get the high scores. We went several years at Yukon before the IPRA where you had maybe one rider make the eight seconds and a lot of times no one would ride the bulls. We know the fans don’t like to see that.
“The contestants that will be coming know how to handle their business,” he added. “We will have several riders that can make that eight seconds.”
There will also be a mutton bustin’ competition both nights where young riders will compete for a buckle riding a sheep.
Youngsters 12 and under will compete in the annual calf a scramble.
By Chuck Reherman