EVANSTON — The Evanston Rodeo Series celebrated a milestone last year with its 25th season. Friday and Saturday, June 15-16, marks the beginning of season 26, with additional performances on June 29-30, and the finals weekend set for July 13 -14. Gates open at 6 p.m. at the Uinta County Fairgrounds arena on Bear River Drive, with rodeo excitement underway at 7 p.m. sharp.
For the first 25 years there was little deviation from the formula of staging a successful rodeo.
This season, however, will see some changes, such as fresh faces in the composition of the committee for the series. Committee fixtures Diane Richins, her daughter Ashlee Richins and her brother, Kevin Kallas, all retired after last season, leaving Kendall Barker as the lone returning committee member.
“We have a new committee with a renewed vision for the exciting sport of rodeo,” series director John Bowns said.
Other changes include the stock contractor as the Evanston Rodeo Series will partner exclusively with Circle J Rodeo Company, a legacy stock contractor now operated by Casey and Stacey Mascaro, who took over from the company’s founders, Jim and John Mascaro.
Bowns noted that participation numbers of cowboys and cowgirls have increased, and he said some of that is a direct result of partnering with a quality stock contractor whom competitors view very favorably, in lieu of utilizing two or more contractors during the season.
“It makes for a more competitive rodeo, bringing more cowboys and cowgirls into our arena, which in turn, brings about larger rodeo crowds and more fans as returning spectators, too,” Bowns said.
Most years have also witnessed a rotation of returning rodeo clowns, but that will change for the 2018 season, as well. Mike McFarland of Newcastle will bring his 30 years of rodeo entertainment to Evanston for the first time during the opening weekend. For the finals weekend, it will be former rodeo judge-turned-clown, Steve Barney, with 26 years of rodeo experience, though he’s in the beginning stages of his newfound rodeo calling.
Other elements will be business as usual, with both Brent Kelly and his son, Jason Kelly, returning to call the exciting action behind the microphones. The same can be said of the gate crew and others behind the scenes. Of the returning personnel, the common thread that keeps them coming back is a passion for the western way of life and a love for the sport of rodeo.
No changes as far as the events, either, with the staples of the sport, including some of the classic events on which rodeo was founded. Fans will be treated to junior steer riding, tie-down roping, team-roping, bareback riding, ladies break-away roping and ladies barrel-racing — both with a junior division — saddle bronc riding and bull riding.
The “Terminator Steer,” for youth, will also be back as a part of the nightly rodeo performances. In fact, it will be the same steer from last year.
“We found a dandy of a steer last year,” Bowns said, “and I couldn’t let him get away.”
The popular Chicken Chase for different-aged groups of kids, could be described as the “halftime event” at the nightly performances, and is ready and raring to go.
The Evanston Rodeo Series has become famous for giveaways, due to the generosity of sponsors. Fans will pick up a program, and when the announcers direct them to a certain ad within the program, whoever has the lucky stamp on a particular program ad will be awarded the prize. Other prizes can be won by contests offered up nightly.
And speaking of prizes, tickets will again be sold throughout the season for the Evanston Rodeo Series raffle. Tickets will also be available from committee members outside of performance nights. Ordinarily, on the second-to-last performance, winning tickets are pulled for some fantastic prizes which serve as further enticements for patrons to purchase, not to mention the great cause they’re helping to support — awarding college scholarships to college-bound youth who have an association with the Rodeo Series. A Savage 6.5 Creedmoor rifle is among the 14 raffle prizes up for grabs.
A variety of great food is available on the ends of the Uinta County Fairgrounds grandstands arena from vendors who are also happy to quench your thirst, so an affordable dinner and top-notch entertainment can be enjoyed in the same fun, exciting atmosphere. The Evanston Rodeo Series has prided itself on being affordable family fun.
For entry information, please call (307) 789-5511 or (307) 789-5512. Eight-dollar tickets are always available at the gate, but you can save a buck by purchasing advance tickets, available at Kallas NAPA Automotive, Boot Barn and Murdoch’s. There is also season pass option for $35. Check the website, www.evanstonrodeoseries.com for additional ticket outlets, weather conditions and up to the minute announcements, such as changes in entries protocol and special promotions.