By Brent Frankenhoff
The Amherst Fairgrounds will again be the site of the Little Britches of Wisconsin (LBW) Rodeo Saturday, August 20, with finals on Sunday, August 21. Organized locally by the Tomorrow River Lions Club and the Amherst Boots and Saddle Club, with all proceeds going back to those two groups, the event is overseen by the LBW and dates back to the early 1970s.
Competition starts Saturday at 9 a.m. with the grand entry parade and ends around 4 p.m. with bull riding. More than 1,000 runs will be held during the day.
Participants in LBW are 6 to 18 years old and participate in one of three categories: Pee Wee, Junior, or Senior. The events include:
Boys: Tie down roping, team roping, senior steer wrestling, bareback broncs, saddle broncs, bull riding, junior chute dogging, and junior goat tying.
Girls: Barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying, team roping, and breakaway roping.
Pee Wee (boys or girls): Barrels, poles, goat undressing, and “bull riding” (actually a little animal).
The rodeo finals on Sunday feature the top 20 finishers from each of Saturday’s events competing for the LBW state title.
An event of this size doesn’t just happen. Amherst Boots and Saddle Club President Mike Barden said that the Lions and the Club work together on “everything from grounds work to setting up food stands. Everyone needs to pitch in to help run the arena, time events, judge, and even announce. I am also a parent of two active contestants. Helping them during the rodeo is part of the parental job. You will see parents helping in and out of the arena all day.”
That family connection runs deep in the Barden family. “My father was a founder of both the LBW and the Amherst Boots and Saddle Club,” Barden, who’s been involved with the event for more than 35 years, said. “I was an LBW contestant riding broncs and bulls back when I was a kid, so I was fortunate enough to experience the rodeo atmosphere when I was young and now help keep the LBW going by helping my kids participate.
“As luck would have it, my wife was an LBW contestant when she was young, so it made it easy for my family to stay involved. I even got to see one of my kids crowned Amherst LBW Queen. I have one brother and two sisters, who both competed in LBW when they were young, and now have two nieces and two nephews who compete.”
Barden said that while the popularity of the overall event has grown, that the “popularity of events has changed. Roping events have taken off at all levels of competition.”
Prior to the weekend competition, the LBW Queen Contest is held on Friday, August 19. Coordinated by Jenny Blenker, the contest has young women vie to be crowned the Amherst LBW Queen. (A letter from each candidate can be found below and on the next page.) Each candidate is judged in five categories, Blenker said: “horsemanship, written test, speech, impromptu questions, and interview. They are also expected to sell at least 399 tickets. Our contestants are active each rodeo day helping in the arenas and waving to the crowds in their flybys for grand entry each rodeo morning.”
Scholarship money is given for furthering each contestant’s education. They also receive other gifts including horse tack. The winner receives a saddle as she will represent Amherst Rodeo at all other LBW events, carrying the flag during the grand entry parade.
Blenker said her involvement with the queen contest began about five years ago. “I was asked to help by my friend, who then ended up moving away, and I’ve carried on with the tradition of the pageant here in Amherst.”
As for future queen candidates, Blenker shared these thoughts: “These young ladies are already winners. Just the fact that they stepped up and outside their comfort zones to compete in this competition is admirable. They learn life-long skills of speaking in public and how to handle themselves respectfully. They make new friends and memories that they will cherish forever. The only real failure is giving up. Never give up. Every year I am so proud of each and every one of these girls who put in the hard work and promote the sport of rodeo.”
Interested in participating in the rodeo? Barden encouraged that interest and said, “The rodeo is a life-changing experience. You will be able to compete in a sport that very few get the opportunity to do and you will be surprised how many people and friends you will meet along the way. Most participants, even though they are competitors, will be there to help you along the way and cheer for you as you compete. This is a family experience and there is nothing like a rodeo family!”
Blenker shared that family attitude and said, “This rodeo has been in Amherst since 1976 and started by some amazing families who believed in the association for their kids. I grew up with horses since I was 11. I became a member of the LBW Rodeo Association when I was 13. I loved to barrel race and pole bend. I loved everything about rodeo. When I had children of my own, I wanted them to experience rodeo as well and hope they too would love it, and they do! That’s why we show up and put in the work.
“We want as many kids as possible to be able to compete in a great hometown rodeo. We also want the community to be able to come support the kids who are amazing athletes. It is truly amazing what these young athletes can do! Come check it out!”
Barden echoed that invitation to the general public and added, “The rodeo is filled with exciting events and contestants. It’s a chance to watch kids that put many hours of practice into a sport with hopes of doing well. The emotions and reactions from the kids is the best part; they can have so many ups and downs in a day, but when they do well you will see it on their face and feel so excited for them. It is also a relaxing day to get outside with the family and enjoy some rodeo action and possibly some cheese curds and snacks from the concessions stand. Come out and help support the LBW, Amherst Boots and Saddle Club, and the Tomorrow River Lions. All of these clubs give back to the community.”
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