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Over the weekend, the Three Forks Rodeo had its “best year ever” with a Friday night standing room-only crowd of 3,100 and vehicles from rodeo attendees parked on every empty square inch of downtown.

“We were tracking our online ticket sales, and it was double what we

had done in the past,” said Christina Kamps of the rodeo’s board of directors. “It was far and away our best year ever.”

After a year’s absence due to COVID shutdowns, “We didn’t know what to expect this year,” Kamp said. But it turns out “people were just plumb happy to be here, happy to have a burger and a beer. And we had a lot of tourists.

“We’ve had a lot in years past but nothing like this,” she added.

The out-of-state interest in the rodeo “was so intense, the phone never stopped ringing. I’d get a call, answer the phone. Get a call-waiting beep. Another call. Then another call. It never stopped all day. It was really intense.”

And the traffic “was a constant stream of parked cars, parked all over town. The grocery store – full. The gas stations – full. The restaurants – full. It’s a big financial driver for the town. After the weekend was done, we all just looked at each other and said, ‘Wow. Yes.’”

The rodeo is the biggest annual fund-raiser for the Three Forks rodeo grounds, and this year’s was the 75th Annual Three Forks Rodeo.

Following a year of lockdowns and social distancing and mask mandates, “People were super-appreciative,” Kamp continued.

“We had attempted to have a preconcert Thursday night, and the guy in charge of the arena said ‘no way. No. I can’t have all that trash in the arena.’ So we told people – we need the arena to be trash free. We need to use it Friday. It helped that we had a smaller crowd Thursday night. People carried their trash to the fence, climbed over the fence, and threw it in the trash containers on the other side.” And the arena was trash-free for Friday’s events.

And this rodeo’s overwhelming success was good news.

In January 2020, the Rodeo Board contracted for about $600,000 to replace the old rodeo grounds bleachers. Then COVID hit, and the 2020 rodeo was cancelled. The board took out a special $310,000, 15-year loan requiring twice-annual payments.

One fun end to the rodeo weekend was filming the crowd for “Broke,” a Butte movie starring Dennis Quaid and Wyatt Russell (Kirk Russell and Goldie Hawn’s son).

“They filmed ‘B-roll footage’ of the crowd. The stunt rider did his thing, then Wyatt got on the ground and he was filmed for the end of his ride. There were a lot of wide crowd shots. The crowd went wild.”

As part of the National Rodeo Association circuit, the Three Forks Rodeo is always the third weekend in July. It started in the late 1940s.

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