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Burke Stampede Rodeo celebrates 25th anniversary

On Thursday, a cattle drive down Burke’s Main Street marks the start of the 25th annual Burke Stampede Rodeo. (Justin Harned/Republic)

BURKE — It’s the biggest event in town.

Longhorn cattle lumbered down Burke’s Main Street on Thursday, signaling the start of the 25th annual Burke Stampede Rodeo, which will continue through Sunday.

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Jerry Hutchison started the Burke Stampede Rodeo 25 years ago. He said the cattle drive began about fi ve years ago, where cattle are herded across several miles, down the town’s Main Street, ending at the rodeo arena. The first cattle drive took two days and crossed 37 miles. Due to the heat, the cattle drive has been reduced, he said — Thursday’s moved about 40 cattle across 11 miles.

“This rodeo brings a lot of people together,” Hutchison said. “Everybody works hard and does a good job. It works pretty good.”

The Burke rodeo, which has nightly performances at 7 p.m. today through Sunday, is an amateur rodeo affiliated with the South Dakota Rodeo Association, Nebraska State Rodeo Association, Northwest Ranch Cowboy Association and Mid States Rodeo Association, allowing cowboys who are a part of those associations to win money prizes. This year, the Burke Stampede Rodeo will feature the 2013 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Comedy Act of the Year, Keith Isley.

Tickets for the rodeo are $8 in advance and $10 at the door.

Renee Sutton, one of the many people involved in putting on the event, said the rodeo costs a large amount of money to put on, but nothing makes her happier than seeing the stands filled with rodeo fans

If you go

Tickets for the Burke Stampede Rodeo are $8 in advance and $10 at the door.

having a good time. More than 5,000 people attend the event every year, according to Sutton.

“I remember we had to ask everyone to crowd together one night because we didn’t have enough room,” Sutton said.

People come from all over for the rodeo, planners said. Dennis Higgs traveled from McKinney, Texas, in his RV with his yellow lab, Lucy, to enjoy the festivities. Kay Oddle came from Sioux Falls to see her brother lead the longhorns in the cattle drive with her mom, Bonnie Bartlett, who is excited for the rodeo.

“Bonnie told me this morning, ‘my bones are old and aching, but my heart is young and excited,’ ” Oddle said while she laughed with Bartlett.

Mitchell’s Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo is on the same weekend as the Burke Stampede Rodeo. Mike Wiedman, the vice president of the Burke Riding Club, said hosting the Burke and Mitchell events at the same time works well for both rodeos.

“It actually helps,” Wiedman said. “The cowboys line it up so they can go to Mitchell one night and Burke the other night, making two rodeos over the weekend.”

Hutchison said the Burke rodeo got started mainly because Hutchison and others wanted to build Burke Stampede Arena, but the event has grown and evolved.

“This rodeo is the biggest amateur rodeo in the Midwest, crowd-wise and contestant-wise,” Sutton said.

Wiedman said celebrating 25 years speaks a lot about the Burke community.

“It means that we have had a lot of community support,” Wiedman said. “The sponsorships that we have made really help us out.”

In honor of that milestone, anniversary buckles will be given out to each event winner and one will be raffled off to the public, along with two 25-year commemorative rifles.

“It’s the event of the year, but it is a letdown when it’s all over,” Hutchison said. “I go through withdrawal when it’s over.”