During the early days of the North Dakota Winter Show, it wasn’t uncommon for a stray bull to run loose on Main Street in Valley City during the agriculture show. Jim Nelson, chairperson for the rodeo committee, said now that all the livestock for the rodeo are housed at the Winter Show main arena, that isn’t a problem anymore — but the event remains just as popular.
The Winter Show’s first PRCA rodeo was held in 1963. Nelson said that while many of the committee members who were actively involved with the rodeo for years are now deceased, he has heard many great stories — including stories of livestock escaping from Triple S Cattle, where the livestock used to be housed before the rodeo.
“There were bulls running down by the river. Some of the rodeo guys had to jump on horses, take off across town, looking for those doggone animals and found them uptown,” Nelson said with a laugh.
In order to prevent an impromptu rodeo in the middle of City Park, the livestock are now stored at the main arena, so they do not have to be moved.
Nelson said the Winter Show’s rodeo, which is the of the biggest in the state, has been successful since the beginning.
“There’s little rodeos all over, but this is PRCA — it’s the real thing, just like in major cities around the country,” Nelson said.
“Because of that, you get much better riders, the purses are bigger,” Nelson said. “We’ve had some amazing, big names that have come here throughout the years.”
Since the event is so popular, there will be three shows to conclude the Winter Show week. Two shows will be held Saturday, March 9 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., and one on Sunday, March 10 at 2 p.m.
“The 2 o’clock show on Saturday, we’ve always called it the governor’s, because we do have the governor come for that one,” Nelson said.
Saturday is called Governor’s Day, and Gov. Jack Dalrymple and other state officials will attend the North Dakota Agriculture Hall of Fame induction that will be held right before the afternoon rodeo on Saturday at 1:45 p.m.
The Miss Rodeo North Dakota queen will be crowned right before the evening rodeo on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
Sunday’s rodeo will have a raffle ticket drawing, and “there’s special discounts and stuff like that too,” Nelson said.
Nelson said the rodeo’s stock contractors, Joe Simon and Chad Berger, provide the Winter Show with Berger Bucking Bulls, which are not only popular throughout the state but also in the professional world.
“So we do get the advantage of having those better stock, nationally-known livestock,” Nelson said.
To commemorate 50 years, the rodeo committee plans to bring back the One Arm Bandit specialty act.
John Payne and his crew, including his children, will perform with buffalo at all three rodeo shows.
Payne lost his arm in an electrical accident years ago.
“If you’ve never seen him do his show, that’s amazing. He can make buffalo climb on top of his trailer. He can make them do things like you just wouldn’t believe a buffalo would do,” Nelson said. “They will walk right up the side of that trailer if he wants them to.”
Nelson said the rodeo committee, which consists of some board members and others around the area, work very hard to make sure everything gets changed over from concert night to rodeo night.