When the 92nd annual Wolf Point Wild Horse Stampede kicked off July 8, it also coincided with the celebration of the town’s 100tht birthday.
The city of 3,000, located in Montana’s northeast corner, is expected to nearly double in size during the five days of events that will feature three days of parade, gun fights, pie eating contests, bed races, street dances, a carnival and of course the PRCA “Granddaddy of Montana Rodeos.”
It’s also a time for class and family reunions and, for many, a trip to their hometown. “For a lot of people who come here every summer for the Stampede, it feels like home,” said Clint Long, who’s served as chairman of the event since 1984 and has attended the rodeo since childhood. “Everyone remembers coming to the Stampede when they were kids. It’s an amazing phenomenon. People want to connect with their roots again.”
The Stampede’s roots go back nearly a century. The Wolf Point area was frequented by Assiniboine, Cree and Blackfeet tribes for centuries and the first recorded visit by non-Indians was in early May 1805 when Lewis and Clark were traveling up the Missouri River and made a stop a few miles from the current town site.
One theory from historians is that the town’s name may have come from the Lewis and Clark journals, which described wolves as “very abundant” in the area.
The town was finally incorporated in 1915 and to generate some entertainment, local cowboys and Indians would stage impromptu rodeos on the dirt streets on summer afternoons.
For three nights in a row, rodeo fans get to see events ranging from barrel racing to bull riding. “At a lot of other rodeos you see a lot of tourists or people who have never seen a rodeo. At the Stampede, our fans are the most knowledgeable fans around,” Long said.
When some of those fans go rushing toward the arena midway through the rodeo, that signal’s the rodeo’s main attraction: the wild horse race.
Numerous rodeos in the country have their version of the wild horse race but at the Stampede, this featured event is known as one of the more unique and dangerous. “It’s the greatest and wildest wild horse race in the country,” said PRCA rodeo announcer Randy Schmutz.
Any discussion about the Stampede can’t go on without mentioning the late Marvin Brookman, the legendary stock contractor whose reputation for high-quality rodeo livestock helped put the Wolf Point’s rodeo on the map.
Brookman, who died in 2006 at the age of 92, was a driving force behind the Stampede and Montana’s rodeo circuit, Long said. Now known as the Brookman-Hyland Company, family members continue to run the company and have supplied livestock for the Stampede since 1941, and currently supply livestock to a third of the PRCA rodeos in Montana.
It was Brookman who brought that hometown atmosphere to the Stampede and it continues to this day, Long said. “A lot of other rodeos offer a lot of flash but he kept the Stampede from becoming a carnival of sorts,” Long said.
Wild Horse event is 7:00 pm Thursday, Friday, & Saturday
Wolf Point Wild Horse Stampede is July 8 – 12, 2015. For a complete Stampede schedule click here.