It was standing room only at the Ninilchik Rodeo on Saturday, as a crowd of more than 650 squeezed into the bleachers to whoop and holler for 145 competing cowboys and cowgirls.
With the sun playing peek-a-boo on Sunday, the audience was a bit smaller, down to about 350, but “it was still a pretty good crowd,” said rodeo organizer Shirley Cox.
Participants came from all across Southcentral Alaska — Wasilla, Palmer, Anchorage, Nikiski, Kenai, Soldotna, Ninilchik, Homer and Kodiak — as well as Arizona and Idaho.
“I was overwhelmed by the amount of contestants,” said Cox.
“The number usually hovers about 100.”
Why so many this year?
“You’ve got me. The only thing I can say is that we always do really well when the Fourth of July comes on a Friday or Monday. A three-day weekend, people put a little more energy into coming,” she said.
Dan Fowlie of Arizona is a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association and announces at national final rodeos.
“He’s been bringing his family up here for a couple of years. They like the weather,” said Cox, who even persuaded Fowlie to get out of the arena and do some announcing on Sunday.
In addition to competing in Ninilchik, Ruger Piva of Idaho also is a rodeo high school champion in several categories including bull riding.
“He came up to work for the stock contractor that’s taking over my bulls,” said Cox, who, after more than five years, is selling the animals.
That signals a big shift for Cox, but with rodeos claiming most weekends, it will give her time to focus on getting back into the competition.
“I’m a little sad because it’s been a fun run, but it’s another thing to add to my resume and it’ll sure free me up,” said Cox of her experience providing bulls for rodeos and the time she will now have to focus on being a participant.
Alissa Cole was crowned the new rodeo queen and will reign for two years, with Little Miss Rodeo Candace Campbell at her side. Both are from the Homer area.
“I want to give a real thank you to Katie Jones for organizing the queen contest this year,” said Cox.
“We have hopes that we can expand that contest to encourage contestants from throughout the state and are even looking at turning it into a Miss Rodeo Alaska pageant, which would give the girls a chance to go to Las Vegas to compete in national competition.”
With the size of this year’s event, no thank-you list is complete without recognizing all the behind-the-scenes help, Cox said.
“This rodeo was amazing how it fell into place because people were so interested in helping out,” said Cox.
“There’s a couple of key people who got paid, but everyone else just donated their labor.”
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All-around cowboy: Ryder Hacket
All-around cowgirl: Madelin Bindon
Calf riding: 1. Sterling Fowler; 2. Ryder Hackett; 3. Lane Smith.
Barrels: 1. Madilyn Bindon; 2. Macie Fowlie; 3. Summer King.
Poles: 1. Madilyn Bindon; 2. Kaytee Hackett; 3. Macie Fowlie.
Keyhole: 1. Macie Fowlie; 2. Madilyn Bindon; 3. Jaycee Pallas.
All-around cowboy: Bradley Wythe
Bull riding: 1. Athena Glidewell.
Steer daubing: Kaylee Warbington, 2. Hannah Kelson;
3. Johnna Drew.
Barrels: 1. Jolene Hime; 2. Johnna Drew; 3. Kaylee Warbington.
Poles: 1. Kaylee Warbington;
2. Bradley Wythe; 3. Emily Arno.
Keyhole: 1. Johnna Drew;
2. Kaylee Warbington.
Ages 17 and older
All-around cowboy: Ruger Piva
Women’s breakaway roping:
1. Karen Jenson; 2. Beth Fowler;
3. Lisa Ferganchick.
Team roping: 1. Chris Flickenger and Frank Byrd; 2. Stephen Primera and Chris Flickenger; 3. Justin Rainwater and Jake McGrane;
4. Scooter Hackett and Ruger Piva;
5. Billy Rutherford and Don Fowlie.
Ribbon roping: 1. Mark Levenson and Melisa Levenson; 2. Trevor Stefan and Savannah Fowlie; 3. Steve Cook and Theresa Bitterich.
Bareback bronc riding: 1. Ruger Piva; 2. Craig Morris.
Saddle bronc riding: 1. Jesse Kitson.
Double mugging: 1. Stephen Primera and Frank Koloski; 2. Tom Blazka and Jake McGrane; 3. Justin Rainwater and Travis Beck.
Senior barrels: 1. Shelly Bindon; 2. Alea Handley; 3. Bradyn Holly.
Senior poles: 1. Shelly Bindon; 2. Chelsey Hackett; 3. Tonya Brewer.
Senior keyhole: 1. Jessica Beck.
Bull riding: 1. Ruger Piva;
2. Jesse Kitson.