Meet the Member Ryan Bestol
story by Lindsay Humphrey “I’m not much of a planner,” said Ryan Bestol of his storied rodeo career so far. “When I get something in […]
story by Lindsay King
Adventure-seekers of all kinds converge in the most unlikely of places: Valentine, Nebraska. “Valentine is a destination town; we have a lot of things to offer. We have some of the best water sports, fishing and the largest waterfall in the state. Geographically, it is odd for Nebraska to have all these things in one place,” said Dave Lien, financial officer for Farm Credit Services of America and vice president of the Cherry County Fair board. “Tourism is one of the largest activities and revenue sources for our county.” Situated on the Niobrara river, Valentine attracts hikers, fishers, tubers, kayakers and rodeo fans. “It is amazing the number of people that show up at the rodeo (August 9 & 10)that have never been to one before just because they heard about it on the radio or at the river.”
Spectators may sometimes wander into the stands, but it’s no mistake that an average of 500 contestants find their way to Cherry County every year. “We are one of the few amateur rodeos sponsored by Dodge Ram. They have been a vital partner for us, as have the other generous sponsors.” The purse was a whopping $49,000 last year. The winner of multiple rodeo of the year titles in both the NSRA and M-SRA, this event is a beast to plan, host and participate in. “This county covers over 3.6 million acres. Over the years, we have drawn competitors from every state west of the Missouri. I am told we are one of the largest amateur rodeos out there.”
Roughly 20,000 people will mill through the Cherry County Fair grounds and into the rodeo stands throughout the year of almost constant activity on the fairgrounds. The big draw for spectators at the rodeo is the wild horse race. “Very few amateur rodeos have the wild horse race both nights, but it is a real crowd pleaser. The sheer number of contestants we get is also unique for our rodeo. We have everyone from PRCA world champions to the local folks just starting out.” Someone who got their start in Valentine is Eva Oliver, Miss Rodeo Nebraska 2019. “Eva was our queen probably two years ago. We are pretty proud of her and the fact that she is from Cherry County.”
The rodeo itself is right in the middle of the five-day fair on Friday and Saturday. Slack starts at 8 a.m. on Friday and performances on both nights is at 7:30 sharp. “One thing we started up last year was the rodeo dance. Most rodeos don’t have them anymore but they used to be a big deal and they are finally coming back.” The concert on Saturday night provides the music for the dance. To keep the whole family involved, the rodeo opens with mutton busting on both nights. That’s not before a couple of theatrical features. “Last year we had parachutes drop in with the American flag and then The Lady Wranglers – the local drill team – always performs just before the rodeo starts.”
McKay Rodeo will again provide the roughstock while Brett and Lynn Gumb bring the timed event cattle. The standards are set high for an event location that is busy over a third of the year. “Last year we had 4-5 rodeos out here and then a bunch of other events: team roping jackpots, barrel races, 4-H shows, tractor pulls, demo derbies, you name it.” The fairgrounds wouldn’t run nearly as smooth if it wasn’t for the dedicated volunteers of Cherry County. “We have tremendous community and county support. Our volunteers spend a lot of time out here at all the activities.” After the spring Nebraska had, competitors might wonder how the arena fairs in wet weather. “Most of our arena records are set when there is six inches of rain on the ground. It drains really well. After all, we are in the sandhills of Nebraska.”
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