BILLINGS — The 2020 Northern Rodeo Association Finals have been canceled, according to an announcement on the organization's website.
The NRA attributed the cancellation to the "continuing impact of COVID-19" in the release posted on its website. The NRA Finals had been scheduled for Oct. 22-24 in Kalispell. The NRA board made the decision to cancel the Finals.
"This decision has unfortunate implications for everyone, but the board decision was made to not sacrifice future rodeos for the ability to have a Finals this year. We are heavyhearted that we won’t be able to have our Finals in the great community of Kalispell but we appreciate their understanding and we look forward to a bigger and better Finals in 2021," the release stated.
"We understand the disappointment for those contestants that have worked all year for the opportunity to compete for the prestigious championship title. Because the NRA values our contestants, the NRA will honor the year-end champions by still awarding their buckles and saddles."
Overall, results for 13 NRA rodeos this summer are listed on the northernrodeo.com website. The season started in Poplar June 13-14 and ended in Helmville Sept. 6-7. Typically, an NRA season has approximately 26 rodeos, the circuit's executive secretary, Theresa Sorlie, told The Billings Gazette and 406mtsports.com.
According to the standings listed on northernrodeo.com, the year-end champions are Ben Ayre, all-around cowboy, Glendive; Tammy Jo Carpenter, all-around cowgirl, Kalispell; J2 Bridges, bareback, Dillon; Tyler Houle, steer wrestling, Browning; Mikayla Witter, breakwaway, Helena; Jade Gardner, tie-down roping, Winnett; Alan Gobert, saddle bronc, Browning; Garrett Duncan, team roping header, Belgrade; Matt Robertson, team roping heeler, Manhattan; Lindsay Kruse, barrel racing, Fromberg; Riley Barg, bull riding, Lewisville, Idaho; Kierra Hougen, junior barrels, Melstone; and Hailey Burger, junior all-around and junior breakaway, Helena.
The rookies of the year are Micah Frasier, bareback, Ashland; Alan Gobert, saddle bronc, Browning; Caden Fitzpatrick, bull riding, Polson; Cole Detton, tie-down roping and steer wrestling, Great Falls; Rope Three Irons, team roping, Lodge Grass; Paige Palin, barrel racing, Corvallis; and Brooklin Baukol, breakaway, Clyde Park.
An awards banquet is scheduled for Nov. 14 at the Billings Hotel and Convention Center. At the banquet, the year-end champions through third place in each event and the all-around will be honored, in addition to the Rookie of the Year award winners. Sorlie said that as the date approaches more information will be released about the banquet.
This year schedule featured new stops in Opheim and Malta and two roughstock events in Darby and Jardine, said Sorlie. Despite the disappointment in canceling the Finals and approximately half of the schedule due to the coronavirus pandemic, NRA officials felt that overall the season was a success.
"We were very happy and just so humbled that our committees worked so hard to put the events on," Sorlie said. "Every rodeo that happened took a lot of work. It's humbling to know they'll work that hard to continue to rodeo."
Sorlie said that the rodeos that were held drew interest from many cowboys and cowgirls — "I feel like it's because hopefully we are seeing a growth in rodeo," she said.
She also explained that there are those who compete in rodeo and "do it as a family" and that with the cancellation of some youth rodeos, the NRA competitions offered options for both juniors and adults.
There are also some crossover members, who participate in both PRCA and NRA rodeos, and with some PRCA rodeos also being canceled, sometimes the NRA rodeo was the only option — "they didn't have to pick and choose," Sorlie said.
"Our total membership was right on with 2019," Sorlie said. "Our membership numbers were great and our actual entry numbers were up at all our rodeos."
As for next year's NRA schedule, Sorlie said the dates and locations would be released in the early spring. Conrad is typically the first NRA rodeo of the year and is held during the first weekend in June.