Hawley Rodeo to honor America’s heroes

(Above) Katellyn Barnes of stock contractor Barnes PRCA Rodeo carries a flag flown by the Air Force on Inauguration Day 2017 in the opening ceremony of Hawley’s American Heroes PRCA Rodeo in 2019. (Photo/Gretchen Kirchmann)

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

The 61st annual Hawley PRCA Rodeo next week is about more than bucking beasts and cowboy derring-do. As it has in recent years, the annual event in the city 20 miles east of Moorhead combines patriotic honors with the celebrated competition of man vs. beast – displaying flags that have flown over significant American military missions and saluting hometown heroes.

Waving over the bucking chutes will be two U.S. flags that accompany the Barnes stock to participating events. The first was flown on Jan. 20, 2017, aboard a 185th Air Refueling Wing KC-135R Stratotanker over the skies of Missouri during an air-to-air refueling mission on Inauguration Day. Another was flown by the Coast Guard during its Hurricane Maria response mission in Puerto Rico.

Two members of the Moorhead unit of the Minnesota Army National Guard will be honored, one on each night of June 11, and Saturday, June 12. In addition, local radio station Froggy is inviting residents to nominate their own “hometown heroes,” whether military, law enforcement, firefighters or teachers; the winner will also be saluted in the rodeo arena.

Gretchen Kirschmann, a spokeswoman for the competition, says more than a hundred professional cowboys are anticipated to take part in this year’s professionally sanctioned rodeo. Among them: five-time National Finals Rodeo bareback winner Tanner Aus of Granite Falls, Minn. Aus is currently ranked eighth in the world in bareback riding.“He likes to compete in Hawley because his grandmother has a lake cabin nearby,” Gretchen confides.

Headlining the Hawley show, formally known as the American Heroes PRCA Rodeo are bullfighters Austin Tilton of Mt. Vernon, South Dakota, and Tyler Thiessen, Elk City, Oklahoma, along with Iowa clown and entertainer Allan Dessel. On the equine side, a horse named in honor of the city is scheduled to participate. The 8-year-old bay gelding, Hawley Falls, was named by Iowa stock contractor Marty Barnes after the first rodeo he took art in. The bucking horse appears at Barnes rodeos throughout the country.

Thousands are expected to attend the Hawley rodeo after its cancellation in 2020 during the pandemic.  The rodeo itself begins at 7 p.m. both nights. On Saturday, the city hosts its annual rodeo parade at 4 p.m. at the culmination of the day’s horseshoe tournament, vendor street fair and car show.

General admission tickets for adults are $13 in advance and $16 at the door. Children from 3 to 13 are $6 and $8; Friday Family Night tickets are $35. Military members and veterans will receive a discounted price of $12 at the ticket office.

“I suggest people order their tickets online,” Gretchen adds. “We’re expecting a huge crowd, possibly a sell-out.” 

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