Hastings, Neb. (August 21, 2017) – When the 26th edition of the Oregon Trail Rodeo stampedes into Hastings this weekend, nearly 200 contestants will be along for the ride.
Several cowboys and cowgirls who have been to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR), several who are in the top fifteen in the world standings, plus some Husker talent will compete on Friday through Sunday at the Adams County Fairgrounds.
Nationally known talent includes a home-state cowboy, Riley Pruitt, from Gering. The 25-year-old tie-down roper won the average (the fastest combined time on ten runs) at last year’s WNFR. Stockton Graves, a steer wrestler from Alva, Okla., has qualified for the WNFR seven times, and tie-down roper Cory Solomon, Prairie View, Texas, who has been to the WNFR four times, will both be in Hastings. The 2009 team roping champion Nick Sartain, Dover, Okla., will also be on hand.
Hastings resident Ben Robinson will steer wrestle and team rope at the rodeo on Saturday night.
The 29 year old cowboy, a native of Brule, Neb., moved to Hastings last year to work for Jaylor/MMI, and competes in both pro rodeo and regional associations as well, including the Nebraska State Rodeo Association (NSRA), the Kansas Pro Rodeo Association (KPRA), and the Mid-States Rodeo Association. He’s ranked in the top fifteen in each of the three, and is set to qualify for the finals for each regional association.
He competed in college and loves the sport and the atmosphere. “The adrenaline rush” is what he enjoys, along with the camaraderie and the competition. “I played sports growing up,” Robinson said, “and I am competitive as heck.” But there’s a lot of camaraderie among contestants. “Everybody’s family, basically. They’re competitors but they’re like family and it makes it so much fun to be around.” He will team rope with another Hastings resident, Justen Nokes; Robinson is the heeler and Nokes is the header.
Another local talent is Weston Winkers, Nelson, Neb. The Woodman, Wisc. cowboy, a steer wrestler, moved to Nebraska three years ago. He’s been competing in rodeo since his high school days and has been a PRCA member since 2011. Two years ago, surgery for a torn ACL took him out of competition for nine months.
Winkers is a grain merchandiser for Aurora Cooperative, and often competes at regional rodeos on the weekdays, making sure he’s back to work by 8 am the next day, and then hit as many as possible on the weekends.
This year, he’s competing in the PRCA, NSRA and Mid-States associations. For him and Robinson, this is the second time they will compete at the Hastings pro rodeo.
A Valentine cowgirl will be back to Hastings as well.
Trula Churchill, an Oklahoma transplant who married a Nebraska steer wrestler, often rodeos in California but is staying closer to home this year. She will ride Rock Star, a twelve-year-old buckskin horse whose registered name is Guys Cash Perks. Churchill’s main mount, Worm, is the horse she is best known for, but Worm has definite likes and dislikes when it comes to rodeo arenas, and he does not like the Adams County Fairgrounds; he fell once there when competing. So Rock Star gets to make the trip to Hastings.
The first time she competed in Hastings was in 1998, and she ran the fastest time of the performance. For her efforts, the committee gave a “really cool commemorative poster,” she remembers, a pencil drawing of a steer wrestler by local artist Donna Binfield. “It is one of the neatest things I’ve gotten over the years,” she said. It was extra special to her, as her husband Linn is a steer wrestler. She appreciates the extra effort the Hastings rodeo committee goes to, to give bonuses to contestants who may not win the rodeo, but have the fast time or high score for that performance. “When they give a bonus or award, that’s really neat.” Rain, weather and arena conditions can put contestants in a particular performance at a disadvantage; they are less likely to win because of the conditions, and Churchill appreciates the gesture of the bonus. “Sometimes it’s mother nature, sometimes the condtions aren’t great. But it’s nice that they support each performance like that.” The committee awards the fast time and high score from each performance a fuel card.
Other notable contestants competing in Hastings include bareback rider Steven Dent, Mullen (seven-time WNFR qualifier), bareback rider Evan Jayne, who grew up in France and moved to the U.S. so he could rodeo (two-time WNFR qualifier), saddle bronc rider Ty Breuer, Mandan, N.D. (two-time WNFR qualifier), and barrel racer June Holeman, Arcadia, Neb., who qualified for the WNFR in 2005 at age 61.
The Oregon Trail Rodeo is August 25-27, beginning at 7 pm on August 25-26 and at 5 pm on August 27. Tickets can be purchased at the Adams Co. Fairgrounds in advance or at the gate, and range in price from $10-$20 for adults and $5-$20 for children. For more information, visit the website at AdamsCountyFairgrounds.com or call 402.462.3247.