The Vermillion Rodeo ground’s all-star guest list included names like Ice Pick, Elvis, Vegas, Hilton Hotel and the Red Headed Stranger, to name a few.
The Indian Nationals Finals Rodeo (INFR) qualifier round held last weekend brought in some fierce competition from the entire region and the smell of rodeo was like caffeine to those with high hopes of winning a chance at the championship in Las Vegas.
The Kenny E. Young (K.E.Y.) Ranch hosted the Navajo Nation Rodeo Association qualifier for the INFR, a regional competition that is one of the biggest on the INFR tour. The K.E.Y. Ranch has a tradition of holding the annual championship qualifiers in addition to providing the livestock for the entire event.
Mitchell Monroe, director for the event and daughter of Kenneth and Emily Young said, “The Young family owns the K.E.Y. Ranch and my grandfather wanted to try to keep the rodeo traditions alive in the area. It’s a good, nice family event because we have all the major events: bareback, saddle bronc and bull riding along with the timed events. We added some extra kids events, 16 and under junior events and the 55 and over senior event.
“We have children, parents and grandparents entering events. It’s a way to have the family all travel together.”
Which is the Young’s approach to keeping the rodeo going through the generations.
The all-star list of bulls tends to be the main attraction because of the performance and discipline it takes a cowboy to master the sport. Monroe emphasizes the bulls are also a point of pride.
“The toughest bull is Ice Pick,” said Monroe. “I thought he was going to buck out but he did really good. His dad is named Ice Coffee so all his babies are ‘ice-something’. We have another up and coming bull, Hilton Hotels. He did very well and we are so proud of him.” she said.
The bulls are also in the spotlight to perform when the rider draws a particular bull.
The NNRA regional qualifier covers a large portion of the 13 regions in the surrounding southwest. People travel from South Dakota, Oklahoma or California to perform in Page with hopes of winning one of the top 12 seats in the INFR championship in Las Vegas.
Miss INFR Rodeo Queen, Kaylyn Bunyon who is from the Navajo tribe, travels to all the qualifiers and says the Page NNRA has some of the fiercest competition on the tour.
“When people ask what is the best and biggest, it’s the Page rodeo. It’s a good vibe here. Our region has the highest competitors and we had bragging rights last year. I am glad to be a part of it.”
But she does hint that a new region has some up and coming talent.
“One of the [memorable] rodeos was the first INFR on the Seminole tribe reservation in Florida. It was a blast and it’s a good vibe with different people.”
The new and first-ever crowned regional NNRA Rodeo Queen, Asia Kinney, from the White Mountain Apache tribe also proudly admits the NNRA event in Page is one of the biggest on the circuit.
“I think this region has the toughest competitors. The Navajo Nation has the best.” She also gives a shout out to the sites of the area.
“I love Page and I loved the drive up here. I hope I can do some sight seeing while I am here.”
The NNRA at the Vermillion Rodeo grounds also provides a prize purse to its winners and overall champs. The K.E.Y. Ranch adds an additional $2,000 for the winnings in each event. The winners take home the prize money if they score or time in the top six or eight in the event which is the traditional winnings along with a prize belt buckle. This year the entries were the highest to date.
The first place winners are lissed below.
Bareback: Steven DeWolf with 77 points. Saddle Bronc: Creighton Curley with 75 points. Bull Riding: Archie Becenti with 77 points. Steer Wrestling: Casey Stone with a time of 5 seconds. Tie-Down Roping: Donovan Yazzie with a time of 11.03 seconds. Team Roping: Edward Hawley and Miles John with a time of 4.71 seconds. Ladies Breakaway: Jessica Todachinnie with a time of 2.83 seconds. Ladies Barrel Racing: Katie Green with a time of 17.468 seconds. Junior Breakaway: Trey Nez with a time of 2.94 seconds. Junior Bullriding: Caden Bunch with 75 points. Senior Team Roping: Carl Begay and Victor Begay with a time of 7.65 seconds. Senior Breakaway: Robbie Inman with a time of 2.94 seconds.
Rodeo has been a long-standing tradition of Arizona and Page still holds the highest respects of the state. The Young family hopes to see the tradition stay alive by holding annual events, particularly the national competitions and through the support of the rodeo athletes.