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2017 WSRRA Producer of the Year Mountain Rodeo Association
by Naomi Loomis,
WSRRA Association Representative
The American cowboy has been a worldwide icon since the early 1800s. Today the heritage, values, and traditions of the working ranch are still alive and well. Ranch cowboys are out there living the lifestyle – calving, branding, gathering and doctoring cattle – keeping our ranching traditions alive.
The WSRRA was formed in 2010 to promote and preserve these traditions through sanctioned ranch rodeos. Each year at the WSRRA National Finals we award a producer(s) of the year award. This award is given to a producer(s) that have sanctioned their event with the WSRRA.
The Mountain Rodeo Association is one of our WSRRA 2017 Producers of the Year. The Mountain Rodeo Association started out as a Northwestern Pro Rodeo Association rodeo in 1992 in California. This ranch rodeo started with a question. Dick Gravance approached Roger Hooper and Les Chappel at the Squaw Valley Fair, “Have you ever thought about having a rodeo here?” That question started a great tradition. They are entering their 26th year of rodeo.
Ranch rodeos have evolved and grown throughout the years and The Mountain Rodeo Association tells us how their rodeo has evolved. “We used to have a “mobile” rodeo grounds. One week before what used to be a spring rodeo they would bring in the arena and bucking chutes and set it all up and after the show was over it all went back out by truck for another year. Due to the generous support of the Kiper family and Gravance family and many others we now have a permanent event grounds, arena, bucking chutes, and more. What started out as a regular rodeo has evolved into a ranch rodeo to suit the needs of our local cowboys and the families that love them,” stated Jason Slebiss- MRA President. One of their highlights in MRA history was being named WSRRA Producer of the Year, “last year the amazing distinction of being Producer of the Year for the WSRRA was the pinnacle of our evolution, now the trick like they said in 8 Seconds is to stay on to,” Jason explains!
The Mountain Rodeo Association has been sanctioned with the WSRRA for 7 years. It take team work and dedication from those behind the scenes to produce a great ranch rodeo. The MRA has a small committee, “we are mighty,” Jason explains. During the rodeo they run a crew of about 20 volunteers. “If you want to come join us and help, we would love to have you,” they explain! They normally draw 7-10 open teams and 4-6 women’s teams. Teams come mostly from California and Nevada, but we have had bronc and bull riders from as far away as Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. Their ranch bronc riding is an 8 Seconds Whiskey Tour Stop and they also hold an open bull riding on Saturday night. The MRA also has a dance that is always free to contestants and their families. “It is a boot stomping good time.” The Rodeo Café feeds the hungry crowds and Ye Ole Waterin’ hole proudly serves adult beverages (including 8 Seconds Whiskey). You won’t want to forget your wallet because they have a very nice vendor selection.
The events at the MRA ranch rodeo include including ranch branding, sort – rope doctor, trailer loading, and team roping. In 2018, they plan on adding load and tie to their events. They also hold an open barrel race, WSRRA Women’s Steer Stopping and WSRRA Ranch Bronc Riding. “As we are one of the last rodeos before the finals (always the weekend after Labor Day) we try to keep close to how they do it at Winnemucca to give contestants a feel for the finals.
The MRA is a family affair, “A few years back we added a barnyard scramble that is fantastic for kids and families. We have rigged up hog panels with snow fence on them and turn loose pigs, ducks, chickens, geese, sheep, goats, rabbits, and whatever else we can get our hands on both days of the rodeo. With the critters we turn loose the kids and what they catch they get to keep,” MRA explains. The MRA also have a royalty program that keeps their contestants and winners involved all year. They also give back to their community, “Each year we designate one or more community or Veteran’s groups as the beneficiary of our annual rodeo. As a non-profit we try to help those in need year around and the funds from the rodeo help us do that,” they said.
“It is the goal of the Mountain Rodeo Association to promote the sport of Rodeo by providing quality professional and amateur events. We seek to promote and advance the image of the mountain communities of Fresno County by providing events of significance.
“Our goal with this rodeo is to put on a family friendly show with world class entertainment. We want to be the association that helps out those in need and by putting on an event like this we get the chance to help others near and far. From house fires and Mountain Little League to the Fresno County Veterans Home and Hospital the small things we do can make a very large impact.”
President of the MRA, Jason Slebiss, explains how that this is a tradition and family affair, “having grown up in this community, I remember being a boy hanging out on the chutes and loving rodeo. I even helped move cattle at the first rodeo and well, I’m proud to say that part hasn’t changed. I still get to help with the dirty work.”, Jason explains.
Producing a rodeo is a lot of work and dedication and the rewards is outstanding. Jason explains, “Seeing the smiles on people’s faces and having them come up to us at an event and say how proud they were and how much they enjoyed it is our reward. The team we work with to put on these events shares the vision that keeps moving this group forward.”
What keeps a ranch rodeo running smoothly? Jason explains, “if you ask anyone on the back side they’ll tell you my wife, Sharon Slebiss (Chute Boss and other things we can’t put in this article), but without her this rodeo wouldn’t run at all. If you ask her it is everyone who helps.
In 2018, the MRA will bring WILD HORSE RACING back to the Mountain Rodeo Association Cowboy Classic WSRRA rodeo. The JJJ Rodeo Company will be bringing horses and the rough and tough cowboys will put on a show for all of our spectators. The afternoon concert with Jason Ellis is a crowd pleaser and the dance with Last Chance Saloon will keep you on your feet. Coming back to their event will be Tuffy Gessling, he is an honorary Squawbilly and we consider him family. He brings his wild and crazy antics to their event!
The MRA’s 2018 Stock contractors will include: Lorenzo Pasillas of Pasillas Cattle Company and Crown Seven bucking bulls along with some of their partners bring some of the best bull riding this side of the Sierras, the JJJ Rodeo Company of Reno, NV supplies our ranch broncs and the great horses we use for the wild horse racing, Aaron San Sebastian and crew bring us the muttons and 4Cent Ranch provides the muleys.
Being an 8 Seconds Whiskey Tour Stop involves added money to the payout of the ranch bronc riding. Depending on the added money, the event then is considered a tour stop, each tour stop points then are doubled, making it an 8 Seconds Whiskey Tour Stop.
Being a WSRRA sanctioned event has really help the MRA be who they are today. “Our first event was small (3 teams) and went a bit rough. Marc Page and his amazing crew took us under their wings and look where we are today. This association will give you the tools to succeed.
Just like in other parts of the western states the MRA is proud of the traditions of the western way of like. “As a ranching community for folks to come out to watch or compete in a WSRRA rodeo they appreciate the skill and precision in events that happen most every day on a working ranch.
The MRA would like to thank all our sponsors large and small, without them we wouldn’t be able to have an event at all. Thank you to all our volunteers and those who come out and enjoy our events. Competitors thank you for believing in us.
On behalf of the WSRRA, Congratulations for being our 2017 WSRRA Producer of the Year. Check their website out: http://www.mountainrodeoassociation.com/