LAS VEGAS — The grand entry for the National Finals Rodeo is one of the most impressive spectacles in professional sports.
It is synchronized chaos, with more than 100 cowboys and cowgirls on horseback circling the arena floor nightly at The Thomas and Mack Center.
The crowd, always a sellout, roars as the competitors from the different states and Canadian provinces thunder past. The qualifiers are led by the state’s flag bearer, an honor bestowed on the competitor who has won the most money during the regular season.
The grand entry is more than an opening ceremony.
It is a statement for the first-time qualifiers: I have arrived.
“It was in the tunnel before the grand entry,” Butte steer wrestler Bridger Chambers said of realizing his lifelong dream was now a reality.
“I don’t think I can describe that feeling. You come out and it opens up in front of you with everybody cheering. When I got into the arena, it was a wave of emotion.”
Like Chambers, Chase Brooks of Deer Lodge is also a first-time NFR qualifier.
“It was during the practice for the grand entry,” Brooks recalled of his NFR becoming three-dimensional.
Along with riding at the NFR, he was able to keep a promise he made to himself as a younger cowboy.
“I’ve never been in this building before,” he added. “I made a vow I wouldn’t come here until I qualified.”
Gaining a cowboy
The bareback competition in Montana just got a whole lot tougher.
Caleb Bennett, who has qualified for seven consecutive NFRs, moved from Tremonton, Utah, to Corvallis this past October.
Along with changing his address, Bennett also switched his circuit affiliation to Montana for 2019.
“I’ve changed my address and changed my circuit. It’s set in stone,” he said with laugh.
Bennett had a good reason for the move.
“I met a young filly and she stole my heart,” he said.
Bennett and Savannah Hull recently were engaged to be married.
“We’ve haven’t set a date yet,” he said.
So far, he’s enjoying his new surroundings.
“It’s beautiful there,” Bennett said of western Montana. “It’s pretty in every direction. And it’s quiet. That’s what I like about it.”
Among the four Tryans — brothers Clay, Travis and Brady, along with cousin Chase — Chase Tryan is an anomaly.
The three Tryan brothers are all team roping headers who have combined for 29 National Finals Rodeo qualifications. Three-time world champion Clay Tryan leads the family with 16 trips to Las Vegas; Travis has 11 and Brady two.
Chase Tryan opted to be a heeler.
“Why would I?” he said of joining the family business of being a team roping header. “I get to rope with three of the best headers in the world.”
Travis and Chase Tryan won the San Angelo, Texas, rodeo in 2017. Brady and Chase Tryan won the PRCA NILE Rodeo in Billings in 2010.
Travis Tryan, who no longer ropes full time, is second in the 2018 Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit heading standings. Brady Tryan is third.
Both Chase Tryan and Brady Tryan, with other partners, roped at the Canadian Finals Rodeo this past November.
Chase Tryan said he benefited from living with Clay Tryan and his family for six years in Texas.
“Honesty,” he said of what he learned from his older cousin. “Clay’s not afraid to tell you when you mess up.”