Wowzer. How was your 4th of July? I meant to share this experience sooner, but Independence Day at my place morphed into four days of family, food, a parade, fire pits, too many beers, attempted naps, fireworks, and - BOOM - here we are, almost a week later, dazed and confused and back to work.

Despite being a Montanan since 1988, I'm not much of a "Western" guy. Buying a pair of cowboy boots has been on my list for approximately 20 years. Some of my family are into horses, but most are not. My two brothers are farmers. They corrected me long ago that farming and ranching are completely different animals.

Credit Michael Foth, TSM
Credit Michael Foth, TSM
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A mandatory Montana experience.

 

You gotta go to a Montana rodeo in the summer, outdoors, at least once in your life. No offense to the folks at MetraPark in Billings. The PBR, Chase Hawks, and other PRCA rodeos are all fine indoor events, especially if you're really into rodeo. But if you've never been to a rodeo - or rarely go - the best experience is outdoors.

Credit Michael Foth, TSM
Credit Michael Foth, TSM
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My non-rodeo family loves the Red Lodge Home of Champions Rodeo.

Last year, we came slightly unprepared and found ourselves borrowing sweatshirts and hoodies from a friend as a cold front dropped over the Red Lodge fairgrounds. For 2024, we were prepared with jackets and an umbrella. We needed both, but only briefly; showers passed over right before the action began at 5:45 pm.

Credit Michael Foth, TSM
Credit Michael Foth, TSM
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Voted the best medium-sized rodeo in the United States.

Red Lodge is such an iconic, Montana backdrop for a rodeo. The setting is perfect and I found myself soaking in the early evening as the announcer began the show, introducing a slew of cowgirls who flew around the arena on their horses to kick off the night.

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The Red Lodge Home of Champions Rodeo was named the Best Medium-Sized Rodeo in the US by the PRCA at the Wrangler National Finals in Las Vegas in December, and it's easy to see why.

Credit Michael Foth, TSM
Credit Michael Foth, TSM
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It's pure American West.

Many of the fans sitting around us on the bleachers were true cowboys/cowgirls. I could overhear them commenting on scores, points, performances, and other technicalities. The other half of the stands seemed filled with people like us, who were mainly there to enjoy the entire experience.

We sang the national anthem and watched the various events, from bronc riding to team roping (clapping and cheering when prompted). The intermission with the rodeo clown and one of the best-trained trick horses I've ever seen was amazing. We wandered through the vendor booths, bought fried Oreos and a couple of beers, and generally had a fantastic, family-friendly experience.

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