Wisconsin River Pro Rodeo draws attendees and contestants from throughout the U.S.
TINA L. SCOTT
This year’s Wisconsin River Pro Rodeo, held at the Merrill Festival Grounds on June 10, 11, and 12, 2022, was a success, drawing both attendees and contestants from throughout the U.S. “We had spectators from Illinois, Iowa, California, North Carolina, Maryland, Arizona, and over two thirds of Wisconsin – this was amazing,” said Theresa Grund, Marketing Director for the Wisconsin River Pro Rodeo. “As we continue to evolve each year, our attendance, too, will continue to evolve, and the visiting spectator states will continue to grow.”
Contestants also came from more than a fifth of the U.S. to rodeo in Merrill, with contestants from Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, South Dakota, Arizona, Kansas, and Texas, as well as Wisconsin, including a few local contestants.
“Our 33rd year of professional rodeo was another successful year,” she said. “Despite the rain concerns of Saturday’s performance, we still had a full stand. The weather cleared, and the evening was perfect for performance time.”
“The weekend overall was picture perfect,” Grund said. “The professional performances from all of our contestants were once again amazing. It’s amazing to watch their dedication to their profession of rodeo.”
The kids got in on the action with activities designed just for them, the tractor pulls brought in attendees, the Rodeo City Riders Drill Team performed their routines on horseback in the arena as a part of each rodeo performance, and activities outside the arena included vendors, food, and entertainment. The organizers really tried to have something for everyone at this year’s event.
Tiffany Smail was crowned 2023 Wisconsin River Pro Rodeo Queen on Sunday, and Emma Moodie was crowned Princess for another year for 2023. Tiffany is a Junior at Wausau East High School and plans to become a veterinarian after she graduates. She is the daughter of Karrie and Jeff Smail of Wausau. Emma is the 18-year-old daughter of Karri and Bryan Moodie of Athens, and is currently a high school Senior being home schooled.
One of the highlights of this year’s rodeo: “We had a four-time World Champion, Sherry Cervi, who competed on Sunday and won the Championship Saddle for Women’s Barrels,” Grund said. Cervi’s cash payout was $1,256.
Cervi also won the WPRA World Barrel Racing Championships at the National Finals Rodeo in 1995, 1999, 2010, and 2013. “This is the Super Bowl of Rodeo,” Grund added. “It was amazing to have her in the arena for our rodeo!”
“Our All Around Champion was Clay Clayman,” Grund said. “He was the high winner in earnings for the tie-down roping, steer wrestling, and team roping events, which earned him the Championship Saddle for All Around Cowboy.” Clayman’s total cash payout was $2,095. The winner competes in two or more events, and their total cash winnings determines the winner of the All Around Cowboy title, Grund explained. Not their placement for the events they are in.
A huge amenity new to the WRPR this year was the jumbotron that provided close up views of the action for everyone in the stands and instant replays of the events as they unfolded, as well.
In addition to the contestants and performers, it takes an entire team to orchestrate a rodeo event. From the stock contractor, Barnes PRCA Rodeo to officials and announcers [Rodeo secretary – Martha Martin; officials – Leo Cozzitorto and DeWitt Forrest Jr.; timers – Martha Martin and Paige Giske; announcer – Kelly Kenney; and music director – Mark Evans], to the bullfighters (those guys who are trying to distract the bull so the guy who was riding him can get to safety after he got tossed off) Luke Moore and Miles Jones, the chute boss Marty Barnes, the pickup men Jeff Rector and Garrett Underwood, and the specialty act/clown/barrel man, The Jester Jenkens.
Most, if not all, of these folks travel around with the rodeo. But locally, volunteers from the Lincoln County Rodeo Association also logged an incredible number of hours before, during, and after the events to bring these professional rodeo performances to Merrill.
Event results, including times and payout
Bareback riding: 1. Andy Gingerich, 82 points on Barnes PRCA Rodeo‘s Pull-ups, $978; 2. Tyler Berghuis, 75, $733; 3. Briar Dittmer, 69, $489; 4. Shannon Warren, 68, $244.
Steer wrestling: 1. Chance Carlson, 6.0 seconds, $1,104; 2. (tie) Clay Clayman and Cody Metsker, 6.2, $819 each; 4. Peter Fager, 15.3, $533; 5. Garrett Stevens, 15.6, $343; 6. Nick Guy, 15.7, $190.
Team roping: 1. Adam Rose/Cooper Freeman, 6.5 seconds, $1,472 each; 2. Chance Oftedahl/Wyatt Kanan, 8.4, $1,218; 3. Clint Wallace/J.W. Beck, 10.2, $964; 4. Tyler Jackson/Josh Hamby, 12.3, $711; 5. Chance Carlson/Steve Kuntz, 12.7, $457; 6. Chance Locken/Dylan Campbell, 17.3, $254.
Saddle bronc riding: 1. Dylan Hancock, 80 points on Barnes PRCA Rodeo‘s Moon Dance, $1,090; 2. (tie) Byron Gilliland and Trey Watts, 77, $682 each; 4. Jordan Corrigan, 71, $273.
Tie-down roping: 1. Clay Clayman, 12.2 seconds, $1,277; 2. Steve Kuntz, 12.9, $1,057; 3. Coy Nelson, 17.9, $836; 4. Josh Krueger, 18.7, $616; 5. Nick Guy, 20.1, $396; no other qualified runs.
Barrel racing: 1. Sherry Cervi, 16.50 seconds, $1,256; 2. Katie Chism, 16.53, $1,077; 3. Torey Foemmel, 16.73, $897; 4. Morgan Anderson, 16.79, $778; 5. Danyelle Hovland, 16.86, $598; 6. Ronda Casey, 16.90, $479; 7. Sara Winkelman, 16.96, $359; 8. (tie) Kricket Gintner and Kristen Meyer, 16.98, $209 each; 10. Jolene Hambley, 17.04, $120.
Bull riding: 1. Jimy Marten, 86 points on Barnes PRCA Rodeo‘s Mr. Mack, $996; 2. Mason Spain, 82, $754; 3. Tristan McClelland, 80, $543; 4. Riggen Hughes, 77, $362; 5. Joe Phillips, 75, $211; 6. Jake Weber, 72, $151.
Total payout for all prize winners this year was $33,989, up more than $2,000 from last year.