Valorous Valley View

Kickin' up dirt at the fairgrounds.

There are endless possibilities for an 80-degree Thursday evening in Bozeman, but none that kick off as tough as the bulls and broncs of the Valley View Rodeo. It’s the only place where you can watch horses getting just as airborne as the candies being tossed to the crowd by a rodeo clown.

What nobody tells you about the rodeo—what nobody told me about the rodeo—is that it's a diverse crowd: flat-brim caps next to cowboy hats, people drinking beers or sipping seltzers, stripes mingling with plaid, and folks sporting mustaches with or without a beard. Style, grooming, and drink choice unofficially dictate the seating arrangements.

The general bleachers are on a first-come, first-serve basis, allowing you to sit next to, and force your friendship upon, any lucky group in the crowd. Wherever you sit, that’s your family for a few hours; no excuses or exclusions.

Blondes, you’ll fit in great here. If you’re worried about standing out… don’t!

Wondering what to wear and how to act? Also, don’t. Once a crisp draft is hopping in your hand and a cowboy is riding bareback right in front of you, does anything else really matter?

All I can say for the fashion department is if you’ve got denim—and I know you do—flaunt it. The bulls want to see jeans in their crowd. Personally, I made the mistake of wearing a skirt, so when sitting down, an unfortunate personal acquaintance was met with the cold metal bleacher below.

An unexpected element of the crowd was the smaller ratio of Bozemanites to non-Bozemanites. The rodeo clown asked, “Who traveled the furthest?”

Expecting a handful of East Coasters to happily make themselves known, I was surprised to find a variety of western-watchers from across the pond and beyond. There were folks from the United Kingdom, Norway, Austria, and Switzerland, cheering and stomping their boots all the same at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds.

Moreover, a large portion of the crowd came from Helena, Great Falls, and other towns throughout Montana. The group of cheers from Bozeman locals was surprisingly small.

With that being said, it didn’t matter where or how anyone found themselves at the rodeo when the announcer asked the crowd to put their hands on their hearts as he said a prayer for those on two legs and those on four, and acknowledged, “The world needs more cowboys.” Something we can all agree on.


There was rarely a confusing moment for the newcomers and tourists, thanks to the announcer's explanation of the rules before each event commenced, as well as a replay screen broadcasting some of the wildest moments throughout the evening. Between cheering on barrel racers and ropings, the announcer's encouragement and reassurance for the contestants, and the clown's back-and-forth with the crowd, attention was never lost.

Chivalry was dead when it came to free stuff for the bleachers. Every man for himself. Hands were tangled in the air and eyes were locked on the prize; even if that prize was a foam football to turn over and throw back down to the clown, angling his patriotic barrel as a target. Want to catch a t-shirt? Forget about it. Seriously, it’s easier on the heartbreak if you just don’t try.

Let’s talk more about the actual competitions: the strength and agility separating the weekend warriors from the full-time cowboys.

First up was junior steer riding, where the strongest eight-to-eleven-year-olds I’ve ever seen were to hold on for a six-second minimum, all while maintaining the proper form. It did not look like an easy task, and not every contestant was up to it. Many advantages were bestowed to the animal, disqualifying the competitors.

However, when Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” filled the arena to call upon one of the first cowgirls of the evening, junior rider Kaylee O'Shea, the announcer expressed confidence in her. O’Shea, the first junior to victory, held on for a proper six seconds, scoring 71 points to take home.

Following junior events were rookie competitions before professional bull riders, team ropings, and saddle broncs took the course. Buckin’ stock riders totaled the highest points for the evening, and I hope that one rider noticed me in the middle of the crowd because he was a looker.

Hi, Garrett!

By the time the clouds shifted from white to pinks and purples, the final event of the night, classic eight-second bull riding, commenced. None of the competitors completed both their time and form requirements. The bulls won that contest.

No matter how short or how long the contestants rode, the crowd knew how to keep spirits uplifted. A total of zero points for the last competition truly didn’t matter on the crowd’s side, for everyone was happy to be there.

Almost every member of the crowd left the arena with a boosted smile, fresh sense of nostalgia and patriotism, and eagerness for the next rodeo.

2024 Valley View Rodeo Schedule

June: 6, 13, 20, 21, 27
July: 4*, 25, 26
August: 1, 15, 22, 23, 29*
Short-Go Finals: August 30*

*Stick around for live entertainment from 9-11pm following the rodeo on these dates.