Don your cowboy boots, hat, and giant belt buckle because this weekend, it’s rodeo time in Irene.
The 27th annual Irene Rodeo kicks off tonight, Friday, June 29, at 7 p.m. at the rodeo grounds in Irene, located just off Highway 46 on the western edge of town. A second show takes place Saturday, June 30, beginning at 6 p.m. Admission to the event, billed as a family-friendly affair, is free for children ages 10 and under and costs $15 at the gate or $12 in advance for everyone else.
“There is something for everyone!” said Kayla Lyngstad, one of the event organizers. “We have an outstanding concession stand serving up some of the best food around. We have over 300 contestants coming this year…that’s a lot! It’ll make for exciting rodeo performances. Rodeo Rose is our stock contractor and they always bring their best stock…they’ll make those cowboys and cowgirls work hard! And if you come Saturday night, after the rodeo, everyone can head in to Irene for the Irene Fire Department’s Street Dance!”
Irene, with a population of just over 400 people, is one of the smallest towns in South Dakota to offer a rodeo. It takes an army of volunteers to pull off the event, which was voted the “Best Rodeo in South Dakota” by the South Dakota Rodeo Association in 2016.
“It takes hundreds of volunteers,” said Lyngstad. “We are so fortunate to have so many wonderful community members step up every year to help us put on one of the best rodeos in the state. And it’s not just the City of Irene. We have volunteers from all over such as Wakonda, Viborg, Volin, Vermillion, Yankton, Sioux Falls, Lennox, and more. We couldn’t do this without any of them!”
With beautiful weather forecast for this weekend, between 1,000 and 1,500 people are expected each night to attend the rodeo. Each evening’s performance will feature a number of rodeo events, including bull riding, bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, and team events. There will be a rodeo clown providing funny and family-friendly entertainment throughout the acts.
“Not only do we have over 300 contestants coming through our arena gates this year, but we also have a special performance by Wild Together and Roman Trick Riders,” Lyngstad said. “Our favorite rodeo clown, Goobie, is back and I’m sure he’ll have something special planned to keep us on our toes. This year, we have a special guest, Matt Triplett from the PBR! He’ll be available before each rodeo performance to sign autographs and take pictures.”
Activities for children during the rodeo itself include mutton busting, a candy toss, and a shoe scramble.
Each night, children ages 4 to 8 years of age can register for a chance to participate in mutton busting (a drawing is held to determine the lucky participants). During the popular event, children, wearing helmets for safety, wrap their arms and legs around a sheep, trying to see who can stay on the longest. What ensues is hilarious entertainment for the audience.
Likewise, during the shoe scrabble, kids 12 and under are invited into the ring to drop their shoes into a front loader. The loader, which will also contain gravel and other elements, then dumps the shoes at the other end of the ring and kids have to "scramble" to find their shoes.
There are also plenty of other activities for rodeo-goers to enjoy outside the rodeo ring. Rodeo goers should plan to come to the rodeo grounds early to enjoy free wagon rides. Various vendors will display their western wares, and food will be available at a reasonably-priced concession stand.
Advises Lyngstad: “Buy advance tickets and come early!” Lyngstad said. “There’s so much to do and to see at the rodeo grounds, so make sure you come early! The food really is the best, so come hungry!”
Buy advance tickets for the rodeo at the Irene Bar & Grill in Irene, Merchants State Bank in Irene and Viborg, Hy-Vee in Yankton, Boot Barn in Sioux Falls, and Knutson Western Store and Fiesta Food in Beresford.