GREAT FALLS, Mont. - The 41st Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit Finals will once again be coming to Montana Expo Park, Jan. 10-12, 2020. The Circuit Finals are the culminating rodeo for Montana’s professional rodeo cowboys and cowgirls. After three rounds of rodeo action, event champions qualify for the Ram National Circuit Finals, which will be held April 3-4, 2020, in Kissimmee, Fla.
Jack Stensland, president of the Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit Board, says quite a bit of forethought goes into putting on such a prestigious rodeo every year. The board begins meeting in early spring to start planning for the January finals.
Yes, the top 12 money earners in each event qualify for the Circuit Finals, but it is a little known fact that all of the rough stock and timed event stock is voted on by the contestants, so they too must qualify for the rodeo.
“We have six stock contractors in Montana and the stock for the Circuit Finals goes through a selection period. It’s a process,” Stensland said.
It’s not only the stock that must be selected. It takes a small army to orchestrate a rodeo of this caliber and all of the support staff, pick-up men, bullfighters, barrelmen, timers and rodeo secretary must also be selected for a role at the Circuit Finals.
At the 2020 Circuit Finals, pick-up men will be Jay Shaw and Andy Bolich. J.D. Harrel and Kaleb Barrett will be the event’s bullfighters, with Dennis Halstead as the barrelman. Cathy Wieferich and Berva Dawn Kesler will be the official timers for the Circuit Finals and Judy Kesler will act as secretary. Will Rasmussen will once again be the announcer.
“The best of everything in Montana rodeo is at the Circuit Finals; the contestants, the stock, everything,” Stensland stated.
The Pacific Steel and Recycling Arena goes through quite the physical transformation before a rodeo can be hosted. First, Stensland says load after load of dirt will be hauled into the multi-purpose building, enough to evenly cover the designated area with 12 inches of arena dirt. From there, the arena is built in layers. With the roping box, perimeter fence and bucking chutes all precariously placed.
With the stock and support staff selected, the contestants qualified and the arena built, rodeo fans can auger in for three days of rodeo action. In addition to the traditional rodeo performance, a ranch rodeo will also be held during the Circuit Finals. Sponsored by North 40 Outfitters, the ranch rodeo will begin at 10:30 a.m., on Saturday, Jan. 11.
“Its going to be a couple hours of wholesome family cowboying,” Stensland says.
The title of Miss Rodeo Montana and Miss Teen Rodeo Montana will also be decided over the course of the Montana Circuit Finals. Montana’s rodeo royalty will be responsible for traveling around the state and nation promoting Montana and the rodeo way of life.
The Montana Circuit Finals comes on the heels of the coveted National Finals Rodeo, which concluded on Dec. 15. Several contestants from the Montana Circuit found themselves down in Las Vegas, with Ty Erickson of Helena, clinching his first ever bulldogging world title. Rookie roping superstar, Haven Meged of Miles City, swooped in and won the tie-down roping world title as well. He is the first contestant from Montana to win that event.
Erickson will be entering the 2020 Montana Circuit Finals leading the bulldogging, and Meged is fourth in the tie-down roping.
As Stensland points out, the Circuit Finals truly owes its success to the city of Great Falls. The community is a huge supporter of the event, with several businesses offering major sponsorships. Because of Great Falls’ support, the Montana Circuit Finals has become the highest paying finals out of any pro rodeo circuit.
“We are starting another decade of rodeo in Great Falls and we always strive to do our best,” Stensland said of the event.
Tickets for the Montana Circuit Finals can be purchased online at the Montana ExpoPark Box Office or by calling 406-727-1481. Performances begin at 7 p.m. each night.