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Powell Butte’s J.D. Brock treated fans to an 80-point ride Thursday night in the bareback competition at the Chief Joseph Days rodeo. (Katy Nesbitt/The Observer)
Cowboys, cowgirls kickstart 68th annual Chief Joseph Days Rodeo
JOSEPH — The crowds came out in droves in near 90-degree heat for the first two nights of the 68th Chief Joseph Days Rodeo.
Bulls won the man-versus-beast competition both nights with Mike Sparks of Caldwell, Idaho, as Wednesday’s only qualifying rider with a 72-point ride. Joe Meling was the only bull rider who stayed on for eight seconds Thursday night, earning 88 points in an arena with a 90-point record.
Wednesday’s bareback qualifiers were Ethan McNeill of Grantsville, Utah, who won with 77 points and Morgan Heaton of Paradise, Utah, came in second with a 69-point ride.
Thursday night the crowds were treated to an 80-point winning bareback ride from J.D. Brock. Brock is formerly of Imnaha and now lives in Powell Butte. Travis Yutzie of Ione came out of retirement this summer after suffering a shoulder injury. Yutzie placed second behind Brock with a 76-point ride.
“I retired in January, but my friends talked me out of retirement,” Yutzie said.
He said he came back to rodeo on July 4 at the Haines Stampede. “I rode pretty good and won a check,” Yutzie said.
Fellow Western States Ranch Rodeo Association rider Pook Hoots, of Elko, Nev., scored 64 points Thursday and is remembered for last year’s Mountain High Broncs and Bulls Rodeo in Enterprise as the cowboy who came out of the chute swinging a rope over his head. Hoots’ ride was a crowd pleaser, but his horse slammed him into the wall of the arena that afternoon.
Hoots said he is a director of the Western States Association and Yutzie is a state representative.
“The directors oversee all the bronc riders and keep in touch with the reps in the different states to make sure it keeps growing for everyone coming up in the sport,” Hoots said.
In Wednesday’s saddle bronc competition, Nick Laduke of Livermore, Calif., had a 77-point ride and Jacob Stacy of Moses Lake, Wash., came in second with 70 points. Thursday night, Cooper DeWitt of Rio Rico, Ariz., won with 72 points, barely edging out Kade Wooton of Roswell, N.M., and his 71-point ride.
Plenty of contestants showed up to compete in the barrel racing both nights and some fast-flying horses and their riders brought in some good times. Tami Semas of Prineville won Wednesday night’s competition in 17.6 seconds and Savannah Culver came in second in 17.8.
On Thursday, Katie Davis of Adrian posted the best time in 17.65 and Wendy Wilson of Pendleton was close behind in 17.79.
The steer roping competition came to a close Thursday night with Trey Wallace of George West, Texas, in first and Steve Hurn of White Salmon, Wash., in second.
Tie-down roper Jake Pratt of Ellensburg, Wash., came in first Wednesday in 18.8 seconds and Thursday night’s best times were earned by Chase Williams of Stephenville, Texas, with 18.6 seconds.
Wednesday night’s steer wrestling’s top finisher was J.J. Rosenberg of Pendleton with a combined time of 21.6 seconds and Thursday night’s best combined time was earned by Austin Woods of Newberg with 21.52.
Wednesday night’s best team ropers were Travis and Tyler Whitlow of Queen Creek, Ariz. The brothers had a time of 17.8 seconds.
Thursday night, the ropers had a tougher time — top finishers were Jason Minor of Ellensburg, Wash., and Spencer Rutherford of Merritt, B.C., who had a combined time of 26.2 seconds.
Mini-bull riding made its second appearance at Chief Joseph Days, a sport that is taking off throughout the rodeos of the West. Contestants must be 14 years old or younger.
There’s a misconception that this is just another kiddie competition like mutton busting, but mini-bull riders are real rodeors and most of them aspire to be bull riders.
Kyler Oliver of Roy, Utah, is 14 and said he’s been riding miniature bulls for five years.
“My uncle rode bulls for a long time so I got into it,” Olicer said.
A couple weeks ago he said he won $600 in Elgin.
“It’s my first time in Joseph. I’ve been doing pretty good this year,” Oliver said.
Oliver said Logan Gibson, also 14, has been his traveling partner since they both started riding bulls. Logan’s father Greg Gibson said the boys don’t just ride the mini bull circuit, but participate in every event in junior high rodeos throughout Utah.
Stetson Wright, the 13-year-old son of world champion saddle bronc rider Cody Wright won the steer-riding competition in Calgary.
He said he also steer wrestles, “chute dogs” — like bull dogging, but it’s done in a chute — and rides steers bareback and with a saddle.
Chad Casperson of Bancroft, Idaho, came to Joseph to ride miniature bulls and said his family raises bulls specifically for bull riding.
Miniature bull riding is part of each night’s performance this year at the Chief Joseph Days Rodeo.