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Cole Neely rides Sacred Mountain during the saddle bronc riding competition at the 2015 Missoula Stampede PRCA Rodeo. The Western Montana Fair's rodeo events begin Wednesday with the PBR Bullorama at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

The great exchange of vehicles and the cowboys and cowgirls piloting them began shortly after the first night of the Missoula Stampede wrapped.

Don't mind the influx of trucks and trailers making their way toward the Western Montana Fairgrounds, they're just replacing those that left under the cover of darkness headed for a rodeo in Billings or somewhere else down the round. 

Somewhere in the parade, Beau Nordahl can be found.

Along with a majority of the riders at the 100th Missoula Stampede, Nordahl, a local rider from Frenchtown who now calls Bozeman home, will continue his search for points. 

A part-time bull rider on the Montana circuit, Nordahl was sent off his bull about halfway into the ride. The result was similar to what Nordahl experienced during Wednesday's Bitterroot Motors Bullorama, but counter to his rides the past few weeks.

"I got two really good bulls the past couple weekends and got 'em rode," said Nordahl, the son of former Montana rodeo coach Kevin Nordahl. "It was good."

Nordahl, who was taking part in his second Stampede, won the rodeo at Cascade last weekend and finished second in Bozeman two weekends ago. Not bad for a guy who spends most of his time working for Montana Rail Link.

"It started out kinda slow," Nordahl said of his hectic summer schedule. "I placed at a few rodeos and then just the last few weekends I've turned it on."

He's currently third in the Montana circuit rankings, well inside the 12-man cut to make it into the Montana circuit finals that begin January 15 in Great Falls. 

On Thursday, Nordahl mixed it up with some of the better bull riders and barrel racers and team ropers the country has to offer on the first night of the well-attended Missoula Stampede.

Ty Wallace, who finished 12th in bull riding at the 2014 National Finals Rodeo, stayed on for all 8 seconds and was rewarded with a 77. It was the second highest score of the night behind Dallas' Aaron Pass, who held onto a wildly spinning bull for an 84.

In the third event of the night, two-time world champion Matt Sherwood teamed with Quinn Kelser for a 10.7, a time that qualified for fourth in team roping. Manny Egusquiza and Travis Woodward roped their calf in just 4.6 seconds, one of two team not to be penalized. 

Four of the teams were hit with penalties while another three failed to get the rope around the young bull.

Wyatt Bloom, a standout bareback rider at Montana State where he is just months removed from a fourth place finish at the College National Finals Rodeo, put on a show in the opening event. He held on to a wild horse named Chucker to become the only cowboy of the night to crack the 80-point barrier with an 81.

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Behind him, Kyle Charley scored a 79 and Dantan Bertsch registered a 71. They were the only three riders about 70.

Hamilton's George Gillespie IV scored a 65.

Colin Johnson of Browning hopped of his horse and fought a steer to the ground in 4.6 seconds for the second fastest time in the steer wrestling competition. The only cowboy to do the job faster was Tyler Waguespack, who came to Missoula from Gonzales, Louisiana, and tied up his steer in 4 seconds flat.

"To be in the same rodeo as them is pretty cool," Nordahl said of the riders and ropers who generally show up to Montana's larger rodeos staged in towns like Missoula, Billings, Helena and Great Falls.

Travis Nelson and Cole Neely tied with matching 78s in saddle bronc, while Livingston's Shelly Anzick got out first in the barrel racing and the competition's standard with a 17.58. 

Like Nordhal, the roster that was in Missoula will head out in search of points elsewhere. With their one ride finished they'll find out if their scores and times will hold up past the performances waiting to take place on Friday and Saturday. If the results do hold, the riders will find a belt buckle waiting in their money box and some money in their bank accounts. 

"Or we'll just look in the paper," Nordahl joked.

Friday's performance get's underway at 7 p.m. Grandstand seats are $16 for adults and $12 for kids ages 5-15. General admission bleacher seats are $12 for all ages and children younger than 5 get in free to all events.

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