ASHLAND — Scan the contestant trailer area at the Cattlemen Days Rodeo and you’ll find a sample of Midwestern license plates: Missouri, Illinois, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Minnesota.
As an event in the Great Lakes Circuit of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, this weekend’s 34th annual rodeo drew competitors from all over the central United States. There was a parade Saturday afternoon in Ashland, and the rodeo wrapped up Saturday night.
The Great Lakes Circuit is composed of nine states and stretches from Minnesota to Missouri and as far east as Ohio, according to its website.
Sunshine Schwartz, 21, of Anoka, Minn., traveled 500 miles Friday to get to Ashland for the event.
Schwartz, a bull rider since the age of 7 who participates in around 100 rodeos a year, said he was drawn to the Cattlemen Days Rodeo by the prize money and because it is a circuit event.
He said he’s had the opportunity to meet other people from around the circuit on his trips.
“I pretty much know everybody that goes regularly,” Schwartz said.
The defending circuit bull riding champion, Schwartz has participated in events in New York and Las Vegas. This weekend was his first trip to the Cattlemen Days Rodeo.
Kyle Whitaker, 34, of Chambers, Neb., spent most of Saturday traveling to Ashland to compete in the steer wrestling, tie-down roping and saddle-bronc riding.
He left his home at 7 a.m., and two flat tires pushed his transit time to 11 hours.
“For me, it’s a good circuit rodeo,” Whitaker said. “I haven’t been to a lot of circuit rodeos this year, and I’m trying for the Great Lakes Circuit Finals in Louisville, Kentucky.”
Whitaker, who has been participating in rodeo since he was a child, said he has come to the Cattlemen Days Rodeo for at least 10 years.
According to rodeo chairman Bruce Glascock, there are a couple main draws that attract contestants to the Cattlemen Days Rodeo.
One is the prize money. Each event has an entry fee that feeds the prize pool, on top of which the Cattlemen Days Rodeo adds $2,000. The top four or six finishers in each event receive a share of the prize money, depending on how many competitors are in the event, according to Glascock.
Glascock said an event winner could take home $1,000 and $1,500.
In addition to the money, Glascock said the location of the rodeo is also appealing to competitors.
“We have an excellent facility here,” Glascock said. “We get a lot of comments on our arena and facility.”
But no matter how nice the facility is or how far away it is from home, Schwartz is eager to participate.
“A rodeo is a rodeo. It’s fun,” Schwartz said.