Loyalty means much to rodeo, Will Rasmussen

Will Rasmussen (Photo: Tribune File Photo/Rion Sanders)

 

Scott Mansch, smansch@greatfallstribune.com9:04 p.m. MT Jan. 11, 2017

 

Will Rasmussen returns once again to the announcer’s booth this weekend for the biggest rodeo in Great Falls.

And for that he feels blessed.

“I always, always feel lucky when they hire me,” said Rasmussen, the Choteau man with the ever-present smile and smooth voice. “I feel fortunate every time I get that call from Jim Croff (Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit president). And I’m thankful for it.”

The 38th annual Montana Pro Rodeo Finals kicks off a weekend run Friday night at the Pacific Steel and Recycling Four Seasons Arena. And Rasmussen’s voice won’t be the only familiar feature.

“The fans are so loyal to this rodeo and the contestants are so loyal to the Montana Circuit,” said Rasmussen, a fixture for nearly 20 years at the MPRF. “They could go to a rodeo in, say, Spokane but instead they’re loyal to the circuit and go to one in Broadus. You know what I mean? The contestants are so loyal to the circuit, and you can’t have a successful circuit or Circuit Finals without that loyalty.

“It’s a credit to the (circuit) management. You know, there’s criticism everywhere to everybody who holds a position of influence in power. But boy, most everything they’re doing is right. So kudos to everyone who makes it all work.”

Rasmussen is no pitch man.

“I guess it sounds like I’m trying to sell the deal,” he said, “but I really don’t have to.”

That’s because the cowboys and barrel racers sell the seats just fine. This year, fans should feel an unusually strong connection to the contestants. That’s because defending year-end circuit and MPRF average champions such as Dustin Bird, Chase Erickson, Shawn Bessette, Sid Sporer, Ty Erickson, Chad Johnson, Lindsay Kruse, Parker Breding, Ike Folsom, Tyrell Smith, Heather Knerr and Dustin Jenkins have all qualified for the event.

Bird (team roping), Erickson (steer wrestling), Jessy Davis (bareback), Lisa Lockhart (barrel racing) and Mary Walker (barrel racing) will all be here after competing last month at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

“If you’re a rodeo fan and you’ve just seen Jessy or Lisa or Dustin or Ty or Mary on TV,” Rasmussen said, “man, that’s good, good stuff and it’s so cool we can get them to Great Falls in the middle of January.”

Lockhart, who grew up in Circle and for many years has competed in the Badlands Circuit near her home in South Dakota, is returning home to race.

“She’s a Montana gal,” Rasmussen said. “That’s so great she’s back.”

Many other stars of this rodeo started and stayed in the Montana Circuit. And a filled Four Seasons is certain to provide a payoff for that loyalty this weekend.

“Take Ty Erickson,” Rasmussen said of the talented steer wrestler from Helena. “He didn’t have as good a doggone National Finals as he wanted to or we all wanted him to have, but he’s going to be a world champion someday. He’s too good not to be. And one of his goals is always to make the Circuit Finals. That’s a credit to our circuit.”

Performances are Friday and Saturday nights at 7, and Sunday afternoon at 2.

While his schedule calls for travel far and wide during the professional rodeo season, for nearly two decades Rasmussen has been manning the mic at the Circuit Finals in Great Falls.

“I’m thankful every time,” he said. “I love being home and I love the Circuit Finals. It means a lot, not only to me but my family, too. My Mom and Dad and everybody. So it’s pretty darn cool.”