After a five-year hiatus, the Wyoming High School Rodeo Finals are making a big return to Douglas this week as 160 cowboys and cowgirls take to the state fairgrounds arenas.
Douglas played host to the state finals rodeo for just shy of 30 years until 2017, when it moved to Rock Springs for two years and then Gillette in 2019-2020. The return to the Wyoming State Fairgrounds in 2021 came, as National Director Dixie Huxtable of Douglas explained, because when the committee put it out to bid, the reorganized WSF board and new administration worked to bring it back.
“We put it out to bid, and Douglas was competitive this time. And quite truthfully, the other facilities that could handle us size-wise had other commitments,” she said, noting the fair is now managed by an appointed board rather than under a state agency. “A lot of things are different now than they were then (in 2016).”
But during the 29 years in Douglas before, the finals were helped by a strong local host committee in addition to the state American Legion committee in charge. That local committee disbanded, so this time around the state committee and Huxtable are running the day-to-day.
Monday night, she was already helping with the Queen contest that was underway and preparing for Tuesday’s opening events, the Reined Cow Horse first and second goes.
Wednesday features mostly check-ins for the remainder of the week’s action, including the main rodeo performances at 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday and beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday. Cost for those is $25 for a three-day wristband or $10 per day pass, with children under age 12 admitted free.
You can watch slack on Thursday and Friday mornings for free.
Huxtable said while the number of entries at 160 is down some from previous years, the number of close races in many events is a little more unusual so it should make for exciting rodeos. She blamed the economy in Wyoming, as well as declining membership numbers nationwide, for the dip from the higher years when 180-200 cowboys and cowgirls attended the rodeos.
Despite that, the committee expected about 120 campers at the fairgrounds and had reserved a block of rooms at local hotels. While most of the contestants and families had yet to arrive, as of Monday evening, they had 115 campers on-site and she had been told the block of rooms had nearly been sold out.
Finally, she noted one event that had little participation or notoriety in previous years in Douglas has been growing in popularity. The shooting sports competition – which will be held at the Converse County Shooting Range on Irvine Road – runs Thursday from noon to 4 p.m. and will have a team going to nationals this year.