Chase Hawks Memorial Rough Stock Invitational Rodeo held in Billings,
Montana each December was started in
1995 by a group of Montana people wanting to help ease a Montana
A group of about 45 concerned people
met one night in Billings, Montana. These folks wanted to
do something for the Hawks family that has just suffered through
an emotional tragedy of losing their 6-year-old son Chase to injuries
resulting from being hit by a car in September 1994. This
group at first did not know what they wanted to do but they wanted
to do something. The Montana cowboy way is to step up and
help their neighbors when a family is in crisis.
From this humble beginning of people
wanting to help others, the idea of a one-of-a-kind invitational
rough-stock rodeo with top cowboys competing on world-class bareback
horses, saddle broncs, and bucking bulls was born. “Today
the Chase Hawks rodeo is considered the premier rough stock rodeo
event in the entire country,” says Hall-of-Fame Rodeo Announcer
Volunteers from all walks
of life power efforts to raise money and to produce this rodeo.
Their main goal is to raise money for this worthwhile cause.
The Chase Hawks Memorial Association
is a Montana-based non-profit corporation raising money for families
in crisis throughout Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, and beyond.
The Association awards grants, organizes volunteer efforts and labor,
and co-sponsors fund raising year around to benefit families facing
crises that fall outside of traditional sources of aid. An
advisory board distributes funds on a non-discriminatory basis,
with priority given to requests by individuals within the communities
where funds are raised. In 2005, the Association distributed over
$60,000 to nearly two hundred families in need.
The Chase Hawks Memorial Association,
though born of tragedy, was founded in a spirit of hope. This rodeo
is “made in Montana by Montana people.” It typifies the Montana
spirit of hospitality. Their rodeo uplifts the community,
emphasizes helping each other, and promotes the down-to-earth values
of world-famous cowboys and hometown heroes.
The Rodeo Building
– Metra Park
Hawks Rodeo is a one-day rodeo held each year in December about
a week after the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nevada and
before Christmas. The rodeo is held indoors in the rodeo-friendly
Billings, Montana Metra Park Arena that comfortably seats over eight
thousand spectators. Attendance at this rough stock event
has increased each year since its inception.
chutes are placed at each end of the arena, eliminating normal rodeo
delays while rough stock is being loaded. This double-bucking-chute
format allows for fast-paced rodeo action and affords all spectators
in the arena excellent seats to watch the action. A television
crew for a national television company also films the event for
Dinner, Calcutta and Dance
The night before the rodeo, the
Chase Hawks Association holds a dinner, a silent auction, and a
Calcutta. A dance follows the Calcutta.
2005, the Calcutta, which auctions off the cowboy teams to the highest
bidders, generated over $61,000. The Chase Hawks dinner dance is
the largest social event held in the Billings area during the entire
year. Over 1000 guests, sponsors, invited cowboys, and stock contractors
have a chance to meet and mingle with each other in an informal
setting. Rodeo fans get to “rub elbows” with their rodeo heroes
up close and in person.
Stock Contractors and Rough Stock
Invited PRCA Stock Contractors
for 2005 were Sankey Rodeo Company, Powder River Rodeo Company,
Brookman Rodeo Company, Flying Five Rodeo Company, and Big Bend
elite PRCA rodeo producers provided world-class bareback horses,
saddle broncs, and bulls for the Chase Hawks Rodeo. Many of
these rough-stock animals had competed at the National Finals Rodeo
one week before in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Some of the rough stock names rodeo
fans will recognize were:
PRCA Bareback and Saddle Bronc
Horse of Year Spring Fling, from the Flying Five Rodeo Company.
From the Sankey Rodeo Company the saddle bronc named Skitso, PRCA
Saddle Bronc of the year. From the Brookman Rodeo Company, a Bareback
Horse named Sports News that had competed at the NFR 2005. From
the Powder River Rodeo Company, a bareback horse named Miss Congeniality,
Bare Back Bronc of the Year winner. From Big Bend Rodeo Company,
a bull named Rapid Reloader that had competed at the NFR.
These stock contractors provided over eighty invited quality bareback
horses, saddle broncs, and bulls for this rodeo.
Professional Rodeo Cowboys
The Chase Hawks committee selects
all of the rodeo athletes that compete. They invite recent
past and present PRCA world champions, former and present NFR qualifiers,
present year Canadian Finals Champs, the top three Montana Rough
Stock Circuit Champs, rookies of the year in all three PRCA rough
stock events, and Chase Hawks contestants that have competed at
the rodeo in the past three years.
of these world-class invited cowboys, many who had just participated
in the NFR in Las Vegas, a week earlier competed. Many of
these cowboys were available at sponsor businesses in the Billings
area for autograph sessions during the day and many of the cowboys
visited the Billings Children Hospitals to entertain the kids.
Ike Sankey, Sankey Rodeo Company,
is the arena director and kept the rodeo running at a fast pace.
Rodeo Announcers Randy Corley and Will Rasmussen kept the crowd
informed of all the rodeo action . Pickup men Kenny Carpenter, Gary
Rempel, Randy Hoffman, and Billy Ward moved the rough stock out
of the arena after each ride with professional ease. Bull
Fighters Lloyd Ketchum and Justin Hawks (brother of deceased Chase
Hawks) were the cowboy lifesavers. Million-Dollar Barrel Man Flint
Rasmussen kept the crowd entertained.
were four rodeo judges working this rodeo, all past top PRCA rough-stock
riders in their day, Scott Breeding, Larry Peabody, Rick Smith,
and Kelly Wardell. Justin Sports Medicine was on hand, represented
by Dr. Tandy Freeman, to assist injured cowboys if needed.
Team Rodeo Format:
All bareback, saddle bronc and
bull riders were placed on three-man teams. This added another
dimension not seen at regularly sanctioned PRCA rodeos. Cinch Clothing
donated all the team shirts and the jackets for this event.
The scoring system was based upon the aggregate score of all three
cowboys. Teams and team sponsors are drawn at random before
the rough stock draw.
Years ago, before random stock
draw by computers was used as it is today in professional rodeo,
there was another way. A poker chip with the bucking horse
or bull’s number was drawn out of a cowboy hat or coffee can.
That is the method stock is drawn
at the Chase Hawks.
The morning of the rodeo, all the
contestants met at Gusick’s Restaurant for breakfast and the stock
draw. This has become an annual event. Cowboys with their families
visited in a relaxed way that indicated that they were all here
for a good time, for a great cause, and to get on some of the best
horses and bulls in the rodeo business today.
Sandvick, Montana veteran bareback rider, had his young son, Wyatt,
make his draw with instructions to the boy “draw me a good one,
What the cowboys
had to say:
We had chance to visit with many
of the contestants and they had this to say about this rodeo and
why they were here. Montana’s own Dan Mortensen, world champion
saddle bronc rider who has ridden at all of these Chase Hawks rough
stock events except one said, “This a chance to relax, get on great
horses and visit with your friends and it is for a great cause.
After competing at the NFR for 10 days, it is great to get away
from the pressure. Same stock, same guys, less pressure.”
Flint Rasmussen, Barrel Man, who had just signed a one million dollar
contract with the PBR Bull Riders said, “This is a special rodeo
like no other. I knew Chase Hawks and was working a rodeo in Montana
with his older brother the day he got killed. I have a special interest
in this rodeo. It is for a good cause.”
Herzog, Canadian saddlebronc rookie of the year was excited about
his first year at Chase Hawks. He said, “We come to support
a great cause and to get on great bucking horses. I would
go anyplace to get on this caliber of bucking horses.”
Jason Havens, bareback rider from
Montana, views this rodeo as a testing ground for young rough stock
riders. Havens said, “This is an opportunity to compete against
some of the top cowboys and stock in the entire professional rodeo
world. If you do well here, it is a confidence builder going on
down the road.” Havens drew from the top of the herd and won the
bareback riding on Spring Fling, from the Flying 5 Rodeo Company.
Denny Hay from Canada won the saddle bronc riding, on a Flying 5
saddle bronc named Sundance. Hay had this to say about the rodeo,
“The Chase Hawks buckle is one of the most coveted buckles you can
win in professional rodeo. When you come to this rodeo, you know
that you have a chance to win something. This is not a drawing contest
like many rodeos. If I had a horse like I drew today at every rodeo
I entered I would be in great shape.” Hay did not waste his horse
and won the saddle bronc riding. Brian Curtis, South Dakota
bull rider commented, “This is a big deal to get invited to the
Chase Hawks rodeo. I always wanted to come here and finally got
to compete.” Brian did very well on his first trip to the Chase
Hawks and won the bull riding.
Scott Chesarek, professional bareback
rider, and one of the key rodeo-committee members explained why
this rodeo is so successful. “The event itself has many reasons
for being the number one rough stock rodeo in the country. The first
and most important reason is all the cowboys know that the event
is 100 percent for charity and cowboys like to give back.
They will show up here even
they cannot afford to travel. Many of these cowboys have been at
the NFR for ten days and are sore but still show up ready to ride.
They all want to be here.”
“We also have exceptional prizes,
most are donated, and some are hand made by the cowboys themselves.
We have an exceptional payout for a one head rodeo. The Champions
in each event take home $4,785 for first place. We give out
a Chase Hawks Championship Buckle in each event and a hand-made
saddle for each event winner.”
“With today’s sport of rodeo, you
must be on the go to compete. At this rodeo contestants show
up on Friday and leave on Sunday. They do a lot of relaxing,
and visiting with their rodeo friends. Many bring their families
and children to the rodeo.”
We asked Brenda Hawks, Chase Hawks’
mother, what she would like to see in the years to come for this
rough stock event. Brenda, said “Hopefully this event will continue
and will grow. The money that is made available from this effort
helps so many people that are unable to find help in any other way.
We hope to expand the scope of this help. In this way we have
made something very positive out of a tragedy.”
After attending the Chase Hawks,
I would say if you feel like you are left out because you didn’t
attend the ten-day National Finals Rodeo in Vegas, going to the
Chase Hawks is like being at the NFR on the eleventh day.
Load up in December and head for Billings, Montana and attend one
of the greatest rough stock rodeos in the World!!
Chase Hawks Memorial Association,
PO Box 31333
Billings, MT 59107
Story by Mike Laughlin
Photos by Lee Raine