Number of South Dakota Rodeo Association members growing larger than everThe South Dakota Rodeo Association is growing bigger than ever. Last year, the association had a little more than 500 members, according to SDRA President Dan Pirrung.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
The South Dakota Rodeo Association is growing bigger than ever.
Last year, the association had a little more than 500 members, according to SDRA President Dan Pirrung.
“That’s a record year for us,” said Pirrung, who’s been president for nine years. “Nine or 10 years ago, there were probably about 425 members in our association.”
The SDRA is a 57-year-old association that sanctions rodeos, supplies cowboys, cowgirls and a rulebook for community rodeos in the state. At the end of the season, the SDRA has a state finals rodeo to determine who the best competitors are in South Dakota. To be eligible for the SDRA state finals, a cowboy or cowgirl needs to be a native of or reside in South Dakota.
SDRA rodeos get into full swing at the end of May and run into October. This season, officials within the group expect one of the biggest years of membership ever.
“I don’t see it losing any ground,” Pirrung said. “It’s not like it’s going up real fast, but it is going up, and that’s good for us.”
This year, the association will sanction 25-30 rodeos, according to SDRA Vice President Larry Powell, a Wessington Springs native who has served on the board for eight years. He added it’s too early in the year to know what to expect for numbers this summer, but he believes it will continue to grow.
The local rodeos within the Mitchell region include the Wessington Springs Foothills Rodeo (May 26-27), the Burke Stampede Rodeo (July 20-22) and the Winner Elks Rodeo (July 27-29). The SDRA also sanctions rodeos in Wagner and Scotland annually, but official dates haven’t been set.
The state finals will be held in Rapid City on the third weekend in October, Powell said.
“Membership has grown the last few years,” he said, “and that’s a real asset for everyone. The more members we have, the better the association is, and the better everything is.”
Pirrung said when smaller towns host rodeos, it helps the local economy when large groups of people compete and attend. Last year, he guessed the Burke rodeo had around 625 contestants, which nearly doubled the town’s population of 675.
Pirrung said one of the main reasons there are more members in the SDRA is because of gasoline and travel costs. He said with fuel prices around $4 a gallon, some competitors aren’t willing to travel as far for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, a professional rodeo circuit that competes across the nation, so they stay within the state. The annual Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo in Mitchell is a PRCA event.
“Guys will get together and travel so it’s cheaper,” Pirrung said. “We see a lot more of the professional guys around because of $4 for a gallon of gas.”
Pirrung said he expects the SDRA to keep its high membership numbers for a while. He’s seeing young cowboys and cowgirls competing in “Little Britches Rodeo,” which is for youth cowboys and cowgirls. He also is seeing high participation numbers in junior high, high school and 4-H rodeos.
Joe Bertus, an Avon native, competes in the state high school rodeo each year and plans to compete in five or six SDRA events this summer. Bertus is a bull-rider who has won as much as $750 in an SDRA rodeo.
“It seems like it keeps growing each year,” Bertus said. “There are some younger kids that are growing up and coming into the association. It’s nice, because it’s not far for kids to go.
“I think people like a chance to win more money, and the bulls and stock is pretty good. I really like going to SDRA events.”