When some of the top cowboys and cowgirls enter the arena at Preston, they will be greeted by the biggest crowds ever.
With the new seating project complete for the 86th edition of That Famous Preston Night Rodeo, 6,700 fans can watch each night, which is up from the 5,300 that could attend in the past. All three nights are sold out.
“It’s going to be fun to have a packed arena,” said Kris Beckstead, the chairperson for the rodeo committee. “We have a handicap accessible area which has delighted people who have said they were never able to come before because of the stairs. We have places for wheelchairs, so it’s all good.”
The first of three straight nights of rodeo action begins Thursday night at the arena in north western Preston. Pre-rodeo events are scheduled for 8 p.m. with the rodeo getting underway at 8:30 each night. There is slack on Friday morning at 7:30.
The Preston rodeo is part of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), which draws many of the best in the world to southeastern Idaho. This year will be no different.
“We have a lot of the best competitors coming again, especially on Thursday night,” Beckstead said. “The Wrights are coming, at least they say they are. Sometimes they get stuck at other rodeos, but they are signed up.”
Sometimes the top cowboys sign up for several rodeos at the same time and choose which one to go to based on the animal they draw. Other times, they are at a rodeo with multiple rounds and they advance so there is a conflict.
The “Wrights” include some of the best saddle bronc riders in the world, who are from Milford and Beaver. Stetson Wright is the two-time defending all-around champion and is currently leading the all-around again this year going into this week, as well as the bull riding. He is also among the top saddle bronc riders, which is what the rest of the Wright clan does.
“We have a lot of cowboys and cowgirls that are loyal to us that are now No. 1 in the world,” Beckstead said. “Some of them, this was there first win here in Preston. It’s cool because they come back because they love our arena and love our community.”
It also helps that the Preston rodeo falls between two big ones that draw the top competitors. The Days of ‘47 Rodeo just wrapped up in Salt Lake City and the Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming is also going on this weekend.
Preston also goes all out for entertainment. The specialty act this year will be Jessica Blair Fowlkes, who comes to Idaho from Crofton, Kentucky, and has performed at the National Finals Rodeo (NFR). She stands on her horses Moose and Wishbone, makes laps, figure eight’s and jumps through a hoop of fire to single out a few of her tricks.
Rodeo clown JJ Harrison is back. Known as the barrel man, Harrison entertains the crowd throughout the rodeo and also has an act.
“We love JJ Harrison,” Beckstead said. “He works the crowd better than any clown I’ve seen. There are a lot of good clowns, but he is a good one.”
Andy Seiler will be the announcer once again. He is coming to Preston after announcing at the Houston rodeo and was chosen to announce at the NFR last year.
And of course there will be rodeo queens and mutton bustin to go along with the traditional events.
Each night has a theme, starting with Tough Enough To Wear Pink on Thursday, Patriot Night on Friday and Cowboy Night on Saturday.
There is plenty to experience in Preston during these three days as a parade is held nightly at 6:30 in downtown Preston. There is a carnival going on, a street fair and new this year is a Cowboy Christmas, that is similar to what is held at the NFR in Las Vegas each year.
“There will be two tents set up with a lot of stuff for Cowboy Christmas,” Beckstead said. “It’s going to be really cool.”