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Chase Hawks Invitational Rough Stock Rodeo
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The 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 family’s grief.

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 Bob Tallman.

 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

The Chase 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.

Bucking 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 later showing.

Cowboy Gathering, 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.

In 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.

Invited Rodeo 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 Rodeo Company.

These 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.

 Invited 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.  Sixty 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.

Rodeo Event Personnel:

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. There 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.

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.

Larry Sandvick, Montana veteran bareback rider, had his young son, Wyatt, make his draw with instructions to the boy “draw me a good one, son.”
 

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.” Todd 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 if 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.”

Vision

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!!

 Contact information:

Chase Hawks Memorial Association, Inc.
PO Box 31333
Billings, MT 59107
406-248-9295
800-228-7690
Fax:  406-248-1019

www.chasehawks.com

 Story by Mike Laughlin

Photos by Lee Raine

 


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