Welcome Rodeo Fans!

U.P. Championship Rodeo brings thrills, chills, spills

IRON RIVER—Last summer’s 50th edition of the U.P. Championship Rodeo may be in the rearview mirror now, but rodeo fans of all ages can continue to look forward to one of the signature events of the summer in Iron County.
    For decades, the rodeo has brought fans from all over the region to Iron River for a weekend worth of thrills and spills. And with several events built around the actual rodeo performances, the three-day spectacle offers something for everyone.
    “We are extremely proud to have made it past the 50-year mark,” said Wendy Otto-Shimun of the rodeo’s Marketing Committee. “It’s an accomplishment that not a lot of rodeos have been able to meet, and we attribute this longevity to the great businesses and volunteer organizations that have been with us along the way.
    “As we head into the 51st annual U. P. Championship Rodeo, fans can once again expect an entertaining and fun-filled weekend of professional rodeo. We’ve made a few changes from last year, but as always, U.P. Rodeo is ‘Keeping a Tradition.’”
    This year, rodeo performances will be held on Friday, July 13 and Saturday, July 14. Rodeo Week begins with a rodeo kick-off party on Tuesday, July 10 from 6-9 p.m. at the Klint Safford Memorial RV Park. The party is a combined effort of the Iron County Economic Chamber Alliance, in partnership with the Iron River DDA and U.P. Pro Rodeo Board.
    “The rodeo is one of those iconic community events that people from all over plan their summer around,” said Erika Lindwall, chamber director for the alliance. “We wanted to give folks a reason to come to town early and celebrate the rodeo all week.”  
    The evening’s festivities will include a cornhole tournament, bonfire, live music by Jordan Danielson and Jef Spradley, a beer tent and food.
    The cornhole tournament will be organized by Up North Bar and Grill, and interested participants are encouraged to sign up there prior to the night of the event, though entries will be accepted during the event as well. There will be $400 in cash prizes doled out during the evening and entry in the tournament is free of charge.
    The event is free to attend, and food and drinks will be available for purchase.
    The week then continues with the return of Family Fun Night on Thursday, July 12, 5-8 p.m., at the Rodeo Arena. This free event will feature games, activities, live music by Lovin’ Country, performances from the Silver Spur 4-H Club and a chance to meet the rodeo royalty. The event is sponsored by the U.P. Championship Rodeo and Miners State Bank and will be hosted by Aspirus.
    Also on Thursday, July 12, Angeli Foods will host a tailgate feed from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Brats, hot dogs and ribeye steak sandwiches will be served.
    The first rodeo performance is slated for Friday at 7 p.m. with gates opening at 5. The second is Saturday at 2 p.m. with gates open at noon. The finale will go off at 7 p.m. with gates open at 5.
    The performances will go on rain or shine at the Iron County Fairgrounds. From U.S. 2, turn north on Seventh Avenue – the fairgrounds and the main entrance are at the north end of the street.
    The rodeo performances form the centerpiece of the weekend but are no means the only festivities for folks to enjoy. There is the Wild West Parade, Market Days, Miss U.P. Rodeo Queen and Princess pageants and the return of the street dance among others.
    Here is a further breakdown of the schedule:
Friday, July 13:
    Queen and princess horsemanship at the Rodeo Arena gets going at 8 a.m.
    “The public is encouraged to attend this part of the com-
petition and watch the young ladies in action as they perform patterns and show off their riding skills,” Otto-Shimun said.
    Market Days will be held in downtown Iron River from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with Genesee Street filled with vendors selling their wares. Some of last year’s vendors sold maple syrup, Chaga, homemade jewelry, wood carvings, leather crafts, western attire and custom cutout fire rings.
    “With food and merchandise vendors filling three blocks, you’re sure to find something to take home,” Otto-Shimun said.
    The queen and princess pageant continues during Market Days. The contestants will also model the latest in Western fashion and answer questions about the sport of rodeo during that portion of their competition at 11 a.m. during Market Days.
    Also during this time, the West Iron District Library will host the Friends of the Library’s Book and Bake Sale from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
    Gates open two hours prior to the rodeo performance, allowing fans to check out the arena vendors, grab something to eat and visit with rodeo royalty. Also prior to the first rodeo performance, the Pink Ribbon Rebels Equestrian Drill Team return to entertain fans as they eagerly await the rodeo competition. The Pink Ribbon Rebels are a youth drill team, which trains under the Rodeo City Riders, of Manawa, Wis. Formed in 2015, the Pink Ribbon ride to help spread awareness of the need for a cure for cancer.
    The first rodeo performance starts at 7 p.m. The Friday night performance will once again support the Man Up Crusade, a nonprofit organization designed to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence. Spectators are asked to wear purple to support the campaign. A charity ball toss will be held during the event, with proceeds going to the Caring House, a domestic violence shelter in Iron Mountain.
    Rodeo events include saddle bronc and bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, tie-down roping, women’s barrel racing and bull riding.
    The rodeo is sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (the U.P. Championship Rodeo is the only PRCA-sanctioned rodeo in the state) and the stock contractor is Three Hills Rodeo of Bernard, Iowa. Anthony Lucia returns as the arena announcer and he will also be the specialty act., performing trick roping. The clown this year will be Bert Davis, the “Coppertown Clown.”
    This year, the U.P. Rodeo street dance returns immediately following the rodeo performance. The dance will be held on Genesee Street and music will start at 8 p.m. Food will be provided by the West Iron County Pom Dance Team with proceeds going to the team. Music will be provided by DJ DreXzer. The street dance is open to all ages, with a separate bullpen for ages 21 and over where beer will be sold.
    “We hope everyone be able to come out and have some fun after the rodeo,” said Otto-Shimun.
Saturday, July 14:
    Saturday starts off with the Rodeo Run at 8 a.m. while the Iron River Senior Center will host a pancake breakfast from 8-11:30 a.m. The Rodeo Run will begin behind the Windsor Center and continue up through the Hilltop location then back down to Bachman Park before ending back at the Windsor Center.
    There will be five divisions – ages 13 and under, ages 14-19, ages 20-35, ages 36-49 and ages 50 and older. There will be first-place medals for each age division winner.
    Next up is the ever-popular Wild West Parade, which kicks off at 10 a.m. in downtown Iron River. The parade, hosted by Global Response North, begins at the corner of Franklin and Fourth Avenue and it will continue on Fourth Avenue to U.S. 2, where it will proceed three blocks east to First Avenue. It will then turn west on Genesee Street and continue west to Seventh Avenue before it returns to the Fairgrounds.    
    The Classic Farm Machinery of Iron County brat feed at the VFW Post 3134 will start at 11 a.m.
    At noon, rodeo gates open with pre-rodeo entertainment by the Pink Ribbon Rebels. The second rodeo performance of the weekend begins at 2 p.m. Proceeds from the charity ball toss at this performance will got to the Beacon House of Marquette, which is a hospitality house for patients and families that travel across the U.P. to receive specialty medical care in Marquette.
    The final performance begins at 7 p.m. with gates opening at 5. Beginning at 6:30 p.m. the queen and princess pageant winners will be crowned in the Rodeo Arena. Saturday night’s performance is the Tough Enough to Wear Pink event, which is in support of the Iron County Cancer Unit. A charity ball toss will be included to help support the cause.
    The 2018 Limited Edition Raffle drawing will be held during the final rodeo performance. More than 60 prizes are up for grabs, with a 2018 Polaris Sportsman ATV as the top prize. Raffle tickets are available for sale online, as well as a complete prize list.
    Rodeo tickets are on sale now online at uprodeo.com/tickets. Adult tickets are $15, tickets for children ages 5-12 are $5, and children under 5 are free. Weekend passes are $40.
    “We want to thank each and every sponsor, because without their support, both financial and through services, we would not be able to put on this event year after year,” Otto-Shimun said. “Not many rodeos have made it to 50 years and we can proudly say that this community has had our back, helping 50 years of committees sustain this valued asset to our area. Thank you all for allowing us to continue ‘Keeping a Tradition.’”