MISSOULA — Some of the best rodeo cowboys in the world are slated to compete in the Missoula Stampede this week.
The action starts with a warm-up event of sorts, the annual PRCA Xtreme Bulls competition Wednesday at 7 p.m. Polson's Payton Fitzpatrick, ranked No. 1 in the Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit standings, is among those competing.
The Stampede will be held Thursday through Saturday. The start time each night is 7 p.m.
Topping the list of marquee entries is Canadian saddle bronc rider Zeke Thurston, who will compete Thursday. He sits at No. 2 in the Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) world rankings. Battling for the same buckle will be Chase Brooks of Deer Lodge, ranked 5th in the world and slated to ride Saturday.
"We've got all the national PRCA sponsors on board, which is a first for our rodeo, so it's getting a lot of credibility on the national stage," said Tom Aldrich, Production Manager for the Western Montana Fair. "I think a lot of that was from last year. We had some really big-name riders coming through here."
More are on the way.
Texan Richmond Champion, ranked 4th in the world in bareback riding, will appear Friday night. Same goes for Shane Hanchey of Louisiana, ranked 5th in tie down roping.
Hoping to better Hanchey's time Friday is Molt's Hank Hollenbeck, ranked 4th on the Montana Circuit. Then on Saturday, Manhattan's Bryce Bott, ranked No. 2 on the Montana Circuit, will appear.
Texan Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, ranked 5th in the world in barrel racing, will compete Saturday. That night will also feature Bozeman's Jake Nelson, who ranks No. 2 on the Montana Circuit in steer wrestling.
Lolo's Kory Mytty, coach of the University of Montana rodeo team, will appear in team roping Saturday. He is ranked No. 8 on the Montana Circuit (heeler) and his partner, Texan Kade Sherwood, is ranked No. 9 (header). Also competing Saturday are No. 1-ranked Ike Folsom of Dillon (heeler) with No. 2-ranked Shawn Bessette (header).
"We've got the most sponsorships we've ever had for this rodeo in recent recorded history," Aldrich noted. "We've had just overwhelming support from the community.
"It's an indicator of how our community loves our rodeo."
Notes: Tickets are $19 for adults, $15 for youth and $14 for general admission ... Friday will be Tough Enough to Wear Pink Night and fans are encouraged to wear pink ... Saturday will be Rock the Red night, dedicated to missing and murdered indigenous women. Proceeds from the sale of red shirts and Indian tacos will go to support the cause. Aldrich noted that 50 indigenous women were unaccounted for last year in Montana.