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Stampede with the Suttons: Family providing livestock in 44th year of annual rodeo

For Steve Sutton, breeding hundreds of horses for the chance of getting an all-star is worth it.

Sutton, who is part owner of his family's livestock business, Sutton Rodeo Inc., has recently found a gem within his stock -- Chuckulator.

"It's easy to have 700 head of horses on the ranch, and sometimes that's way too many," Sutton said. "But sometimes you get rewarded."

Chuckulator is the 2012 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Saddle Bronc Horse of the Year and will be in Mitchell for this year's 44th Annual Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo.

The horse is one of countless livestock that have been provided by Sutton Rodeo Inc., of Onida, to the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo. The family has provided livestock to the event each year since its inception in 1971.

This year's annual event will feature around 400 competitors. Rodeo competition begins at 8 tonight at the Horseman's Sports Arena and continues nightly through Sunday.

Chuckulator will perform for the Mitchell crowd Saturday evening and is the third world champion bucking horse the family has had. Deep Water was the 1979 PRCA Saddle Bronc Horse of the Year and Tombstone was the 1985 PRCA Bareback Horse of the Year.

"Of the 700 horses we have, only 10 percent of them become pro horses," Sutton said, "and after 10 years, just 2 percent are still at the top of their 'A' game. That may not sound like much but compare that to baseball.

"From little league to high school to college then the pros, there aren't many who make it that far. I think in rodeo we're ahead of the game. There's a place for all of our horses on all levels of rodeo."

The Sutton family began breeding and raising livestock around 1883. Since then, the family business has been passed down for six generations, creating a strong legacy in South Dakota. The Suttons broke into the rodeo business in 1926 and have loved it ever since.

"In our business, the whole family goes along," Sutton said. "It's tough on a lot of families when they can't travel together. All three of my kids within 10 days of being born were at the rodeo. I'm really fortunate that they still participate and like what they're doing."

Joe Bertus, 20, of Avon, is returning to Mitchell to compete in tonight's bull riding event. When Bertus comes to the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo, he knows he's going to get a good ride because the Suttons provide quality livestock.

"Riders expect they're going to get a good bull that will put you in the money when they come to this rodeo," he said. "It's one of the better rodeos I go too, for sure, in South Dakota."

The Sutton family began providing stock at the Black Hills Stock Show Rodeo in 1978 and have been involved in many rodeos in South Dakota, Minnesota, North Dakota and the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nev. This year, the Sutton livestock is scheduled to make appearances at 13 rodeos.

Jim Sutton, Steve's father, said his family has been fortunate to be a part of Mitchell's rodeo for so many years.

"It's kind of like a family with each rodeo and Mitchell, this year, is one of our bigger, better rodeos," he said, adding the Suttons are bringing around 200 livestock for Mitchell's four-day event.

This year, the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo will host contestants from the Badlands, Prairie and Great Lakes circuits, including Wrangler National Finals qualifiers. One contestant to keep an eye out for is eight time World Champion Joe Beaver. Beaver, who is coming to Mitchell for the second consecutive year, is nearing $3 million in career earnings and fifth all-time in PRCA earnings.

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.