Riding into the 70th annual Roy Rodeo

Matthew Strissel
Sports Editor
Wednesday, June 15, 2022
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Clay Stone, from Blackfoot, Idaho, loses his hat but holds on in the bareback riding competition during the 2020 Roy Open Rodeo. Photo by Matthew Strissel

Cowboys and cowgirls will head north to Roy this weekend to celebrate the 70th annual Roy Open Rodeo. The event is slated for Father’s Day, Sunday, June 19, at 1 p.m.

This year, there will be $500 purses added to the bareback riding, ranch bronc riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, steer wrestling, tie down roping, ladies breakaway roping, ladies barrel racing and team roping. For kids barrel racing (ages 9-14), ages 8 and under kids barrel racing, and kids breakaway roping (ages 14 and under), there will be $100 purses added.

Special events this year include a saddle bronc “top 5” ride-off and calcutta, dally ribbon roping, tie down roping, ladies barrel race, and ladies and kids breakaway roping. The team roping and barrel racing calcutta auction will be held Saturday, June 18 at 9 p.m. in downtown Roy.

A look back

The Roy Rodeo has been going strong since 1952. According to an article in the Lewistown Daily News on Tuesday, July 1, 1952, the first annual rodeo put on by the Roy Rodeo Club was a sellout with nearly 2,000 persons on hand for the show. There were 95 cowboys entered into the competition for various prizes amounting to over $1,000 (about $11,000 in 2022 dollars).

The first all-around cowboy trophy buckle was awarded to Albert Vermendal of Red Lodge, who won the calf roping and wild horse race events.

In the second annual Roy Rodeo, in 1953, the Roy Rodeo Club erected new bleachers at the arena, located on the outskirts of Roy, in order to accommodate the large crowd.

The Monday, June 29, 1954, issue of the Lewistown Daily News reported that the third annual Roy Rodeo was temporarily halted when George Econonu of Billings was thrown from his horse during the bareback riding event and had to be rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Lewistown. Hospital officials reported that Econonu suffered a back injury, but his condition was fair. Spectators at the rodeo collected a purse of $114 for the rider ($1,248 in 2022 dollars).

Over 60 contestants registered for the third annual rodeo events. Cal Morris was voted the top all-around cowboy after taking first place in the saddle bronc and bareback riding events. Besides the prize money, Morris was presented with a pair of Acme boots, courtesy of Tom Toomey’s saddle and shoe shop of Lewistown. Wass Mercantile of Roy donated a pair of overalls to the winner of the wild horse race.


50 years celebrated in 2002

According to an article written by Jay Acker, News-Argus staff writer, in the June 19, 2002 edition of the Lewistown News-Argus, hundreds of competitors and spectators from around the state descended on Roy for a day of roping, wrestling, and riding. 

The 50th annual event started with a jackpot team-roping event held that Saturday at the CK Arena in Roy. There was an average of 45 competitors in the day-long event. 

Sunday started out with a parade and honoring some of the original organizers of the first rodeo 50 years prior. The president of the first rodeo was Ed Styer. The judges were Joe Hood and Frank Kinney. Mary Siroky was one of the remaining organizers and waved as she rode around the rodeo grounds in a horse-driven cart. Julia Jackson was the timer for the 1952 rodeo.

At the end of the day, Bill Boyce received the top honors for winning the most money and being the all-around male. With a time of 6.36 seconds, Boyce placed first in team roping with Billings partner Brett Flemming. He took fourth in calf roping with a time of 11.96 seconds, and third in steer wrestling with a time of 8.33 seconds.

In an article by Tana Whitney, News-Argus contributing writer, in the same issue, Jim Rife, a local and one of the founding members of the Roy Rodeo Club, told of an unlikely accident that happened in the early days of the rodeo.

“During a bronc riding event, a horse was bucking and kicking so hard that he broke his own leg,” Rife said. “Of course, we had to shoot it.”

Another local and founding member, Bill Davis, told of a horse named Crybaby.

“A man bet $5 that no one could ride Crybaby,” Davis said. “When a cowboy did ride the horse, he came to collect his money. Being told he wasn’t going to be paid, they cowboy got angry and punched the man with the $5. Others quickly broke up the fight and the cowboy was paid.”

After 70 years, the annual Roy Open Rodeo is still going strong and will continue its long tradition of drawing cowboys, cowgirls, and spectators for a day of roping and riding.