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Webster County Fair & Rodeo, Bladen, Nebraska
story by Siri Stevens
The rodeo held during the Webster County Fair & Rodeo in Bladen, Neb., in south central Nebraska, has been going on since 1933.
“There used to be horse races at the fairgrounds during the 1900s until the 1920s,” said rodeo chairman, Troy Bonifas. “They started the rodeo in 1933.” The July 14-16 event is biggest event in the County. “Hands down,” said Troy, who is a Webster County native. This is his second year as Chairman, taking the place of Terry Plambeck, who was the Chairman for 17 years and passed away from cancer. “He was a real good friend of the family and I helped him every year … he asked me to take it over.” The community had a fund raiser for Terry to help with his hospital bills and traveling expenses for his cancer. He ended up passing away before the fund raiser, and his family decided the money that was raised should go towards a new crows nest, so that’s what happened. “We have so much support with the community and the people around us, it’s great.”
One of the biggest draws to the rodeo is the Wild Cow Race, an event that the locals enter. “It always draws a great crowd – standing room only,” Troy said. “My brothers and I used to do it.” The wild cow race consists of barrels set up about half way down the arena. There are three men to a team and the cows are loaded into the chutes. “We mug the cows in the chute with halters on, and they turn the cows loose. They have to get the cow under control, saddle her, and a guy jumps on and runs to the end, unsaddles the cow, and runs back to the bucking chutes. It’s a crazy sport.” Besides the wild cow race, the ranch bronc riding is the next popular event. “We are excited to go with KPRA. We started Ranch Bronc Riding, and that’s a sanctioned event with KPRA. We have a lot of local guys that like to ranch bronc ride and it fits our rodeo. It’s tough to find roughstock riders,” he said.
There is a dance at the Fairgrounds after the rodeo, right by the beer garden. Ninety percent of the 4-H families camp at the fairgrounds – the population of the town is 230 people, and the county has a population of 3,700, mostly farmers and ranchers. The small family, kid friendly town, is always excited to see the rodeo come to town.