magazine headerSubscribe to North Dakota Living Magazine
ndarecfeature storyeditorialcalendarrecipes


Mandan Rodeo Days (courtesy photo)

Mandan rodeo celebrates 135th anniversary

by Luann Dart

Spurred by a legacy of fearless feats on bucking broncs or wide-eyed wrecks atop one-ton behemoths, the Mandan Rodeo Days will celebrate the 135th anniversary of North Dakota’s oldest continuous rodeo in 2014.

Deeply seated in the area’s ranching heritage, the legendary event began in 1879 with Fourth of July pony races, a baseball game and other entertainment.  The first bronc-busting performance was in 1885.

Bucking broncs, cowboys and fireworks will all be part of the Mandan Rodeo Days Celebration July 2-4 under the leadership of the Mandan Progress Organization and Mandan Rodeo Committee, which have overseen the celebration for the last 12 years.

Mandan Rodeo Days features three action-packed Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association-sanctioned rodeo performances at 7:30 nightly July 2-4, plus Arts in the Park, a Fourth of July parade, fireworks and other events.

The July 2 rodeo will feature family fun, with a rodeo feed and activities for children, ranging from stick horse races to a treasure hunt in the hay. The kids’ events are sponsored by the Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives of Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Cooperative, Flasher, Capital Electric Cooperative, Bismarck, and Basin Electric Power Cooperative, Bismarck.

“It’s nice to do something for the kids in the area,” says Jackie Miller, chief of staff/manager of member services for Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Cooperative.

July 3 is patriot night, which will focus on honoring our soldiers.
“It’s real patriotic and emotional night as we honor the troops. It’s a great night,” says Del Wetsch, with the Mandan Progress Organization.

As part of this year’s anniversary, the Mandan Rodeo Committee has commissioned a commemorative 135th anniversary rifle decorated with etchings of the former rodeo grounds and famous faces from the event’s history, including the singing cowboy, Gene Autry, who once made an appearance at the rodeo.

“It’s a great-looking rifle,” Wetsch says.

Funds raised by the July 3 auction of a proof of the rifle and by the raffle of two numbered commemorative rifles will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project, to benefit those wounded during wartime service, according to Wetsch.
Another auction item will include a guitar signed by artists who have performed at Prairie Nights Casino. Raffle drawings will be held July 4 and will also include a $2,000 diamond necklace, with all proceeds donated to the Wounded Warrior Project.

During the three-day Mandan Rodeo Days, another highlight is the Fourth of July parade, which starts at 10:30 a.m. July 4. Arts in the Park is located at Dykshoorn Park and Heritage Park on West Main Street in Mandan July 3-4.

During the celebration, Mandan Rodeo Days will also include a carnival, golf tournament, an all-class reunion, pitchfork fondue, a 5-K fun run and walk, a patriotic musical and nightly street dances. New this year will be a street festival, with various entertainment every two blocks starting at 8 a.m. July 4 and continuing until the parade begins.

During the parade, watch for the entry sponsored by the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives, including Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Cooperative, Capital Electric Cooperative, Basin Electric Power Cooperative and the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives, along with the National Information Solutions Cooperative. Employees will be walking alongside the parade entry, giving candy away.

“It’s always fun to hear someone from the crowd yell, ‘Hey, Jackie! Toss some candy over here,” Miller says with a laugh.
“It’s really about our commitment to the community and to the members,” Miller shares. “We see a lot of our members there and it’s a nice way to remind people we are here to serve.”
“It’s just turned into a great festival,” Wetsch says. “If you’re not a rodeo fan, which you should be, you have plenty of other options to take in.”

For a complete schedule, visit

Ride the circuit:
Here are some of the other larger rodeos in North Dakota in 2014, according to N.D. Tourism:
• North Dakota Rodeo Association (NDRA) Roughrider Rodeo, Medora, June 6-7: Full rodeo in the beautiful Badlands.
• Elgin Days Rodeo, Elgin, June 7-8: In conjunction with the community’s annual celebration, this rodeo has more than 50 years of history.
• North Dakota High School Rodeo Finals, Bowman, June 11-15. Top high school athletes compete for a trip to the national finals.
• Roughrider Days Fair and Expo Rodeo, Dickinson, June 27-29. Rodeo, live music, Fourth of July parade and more.
Killdeer Mountain Roundup Rodeo, Killdeer, July 3-4: Oldest PRCA rodeo in North Dakota, celebrating 87th year. Also street dances and parade.
• McKenzie County Fair Rodeo, July 10-12, Watford City. Rodeo is part of the larger celebration.
Morton County Fair Rodeo, July 31-Aug. 2, New Salem. Rodeo is part of the larger celebration.
• Hettinger Chamber Bull-A-Rama and Rodeo, Hettinger, Aug. 2: Held in conjunction with Adams County Fair.
• Home on the Range Champions Ride Rodeo, Sentinel Butte, Aug. 2: Showdown between 20 of the top professional saddle bronc riders.
Ashley Rodeo, Aug. 2-3, Ashley.
Roughrider Rodeo Association Finals, Jamestown, Sept. 26-28: Year-end championship event for this North Dakota circuit.
• Lake Region Rodeo Association NDRA Shootout, Sept. 26-28, Devils Lake.
Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo, Minot, Oct. 9-12: Also known as the Minot Y’s Men’s Rodeo. Champions in the PRCA’s Badlands Circuit will be crowned.
NDRA Finals Rodeo, Bismarck, Oct. 17-18: Crowning of year-end champions in all events.



Copyright © North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives
All rights reserved :: Terms and conditions