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Rodeo Spotlight Sutherland
story by Lindsay King
Few rodeos can say they get a good turnout for the slack, but that’s exactly what the Sutherland NSRA rodeo boasts. Known as the Fourth of July rodeo, Sutherland is traditionally the third and fourth with slack on the second. “It depends how the holiday hits and when people have to go back to work, but we usually figure anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 people are in the stands every night,” said long-time volunteer and committee member Janet Mueller. The holiday event might not be listed as a festival, but it sure runs like one. “We have three days of activities going on in addition to the rodeo each night. It kicks off with a hamburger feed with our local grocery store followed by slack on the second.”
Mueller has found many families plan reunions and other events around the rodeo weekend. This has made it imperative for the 82-year-old event to remain both family and community oriented. Those 82 years only account for how long the event has been held at the rodeo grounds in town. “The rodeo actually started sometime in the 1920s at a ranch just north of Sutherland. They held it in a canyon and then used Model T’s as the rest of the arena fence. It started at a ranch just like most rodeos did, we have just been able to maintain it.”
In the spirit of keeping the Sutherland rodeo going strong for another 80 years, the committee is continuing to make improvements to the event and the facilities. “Last year we put up an open-air pavilion to put the beer garden and picnic tables under. We are in the middle of putting up a 30×72-foot building that will have restrooms, a new concession stands area and a conference room.” Though the building won’t be complete by this year’s rodeo, it will be done by the end of the summer. The committee hopes it will be used for other events throughout the year. “Last year the guys worked really hard to move the roping boxes to the south end of the arena, this makes our set up much more suitable for all the timed events. We have also put in a new sorting alley and are putting even more of those in behind the bucking chutes.” Mueller said this will make it easier for Phillips Rodeo Company to move their stock through.
If the facility improvements and full stands isn’t enough to get a contestant to Sutherland, then the added money certainly should be. “This is one of the largest NSRA rodeos of the year and we are very proud of that. We usually have around 600 entries and have paid out over $52,000 in the last two years.” The mixed team roping is not just a slack event in Sutherland, they are also featured in the performances. The committee has $1,200 added to every event, including that amount per person in the team roping.
Spectators will also be privy to one of the toughest amateur rodeo queen contests in the state. Also a committee member of the Miss Rodeo Nebraska pageant, Mueller said she has anywhere from six to 12 contestants every year for the Sutherland queen contest. It is actually only open to contestants 15 years old and under. “We have had many girls win this title and then go on to be Miss Rodeo Nebraska.” Before the rodeo starts kids are invited to participate in the boot race and later get back in the arena for the calf scramble. Co-sanctioned with both the NSRA and M-SRA, the Sutherland rodeo is also sanctioned with a few other state associations. “The committee just wants to thank everyone that has ever attended or been part of the rodeo, because without them we would not be where are today. We are proud to put on a rodeo of this size.”