Bucking Tradition 

Montana's rich rodeo culture goes beyond just an eight second ride

In just eight seconds, a bull rider can vault himself from no-name cowboy to celebrated hero. In rodeo's most celebrated event—so popular, in fact, it spawned it's own NASCAR-like circuit, the Professional Bull Riders—the prize money is high, the risk steep, and reputations are either earned or lost quickly.

Montana events tend to buck this high-profile trend. More than 90 community rodeos take place in Montana every year, each filled with a distinctive local pageantry that keeps the focus more on its cattle ranching roots than its contemporary appeal. Whether crowds come together for the 112th annual Fourth of July rodeo in Arlee, the 68th annual Drummond rodeo in mid-July or Missoula's Western Montana Fair and Rodeo in mid-August, these gatherings offer a rare window to the original American West.

click to enlarge Young cowboys keep their eyes on a barrel racer during the Fourth of July rodeo in Arlee. - PHOTO BY ANNE MEDLEY
  • Photo by Anne Medley
  • Young cowboys keep their eyes on a barrel racer during the Fourth of July rodeo in Arlee.



click to enlarge “Pinto Bill” stands quietly at the Arlee rodeo grounds, still painted from the Fourth of July parade earlier in the day. Well-worn harnesses adorn the fence in Drummond. - PHOTO BY ANNE MEDLEY
  • Photo by Anne Medley
  • “Pinto Bill” stands quietly at the Arlee rodeo grounds, still painted from the Fourth of July parade earlier in the day. Well-worn harnesses adorn the fence in Drummond.



click to enlarge Miss Teen Rodeo Montana Libby Gurnett waves the American flag during the grand entry at the Drummond PRCA rodeo. - PHOTO BY ANNE MEDLEY
  • Photo by Anne Medley
  • Miss Teen Rodeo Montana Libby Gurnett waves the American flag during the grand entry at the Drummond PRCA rodeo.



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