By Nick Beversdorf
A large crowd welcomed the Wisconsin River Pro Rodeo as they made their annual stop in Merrill this past weekend. The three-day event kicked off to a somewhat slow start on Friday night as severe thunderstorms initially kept people away, but once the storm passed the new Merrill Festival Grounds grandstand slowly filled up with people. Friday night was also military appreciation night, with a full recognition of each branch of the military and honoring of veterans.
The weather cooperated on Saturday and Sunday with sunny skies during the day slowly leading off into cool evenings with a refreshing breeze. Both days saw the stands very nearly packed with people. Saturday was also “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” night, with cowboys and event staff wearing pink in order to raise awareness of breast cancer.
Many people from Merrill or currently living in and around Merrill participated in the events. Noah Lassa of Merrill participated in the tie-down roping events on Friday and Todd Mattson of Gleason participated in the team roping events with Matthew Zimmerman of Thorp. Noah, Adam and Levi Lassa also competed in steer wrestling on Friday.
Katie and Kristin Van Der Geest both participated in barrel racing, with Katie placing first in the event with a time of 18.37 seconds on Friday. Kristen, formerly of Merrill now living in Missouri, got a flat 19 seconds in the event on Saturday, just short of placing.
Jeff Butler and Gabe Gwaltney, two Missouri cowboys who married into the Van Der Geest family, participated in the team roping event on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Jeff placed second with teammate Mitchel Osborn of Union Star, MO with a time of 6.5 seconds. Gabe Gwanltney did not place.
Other events during the rodeo included the awarding of the Gary Van Der Geest scholarships, a comedy act by the rodeo clown Andy Burelle and a massive children’s shoe pile game on the rodeo grounds.
The full pay out for the rodeo totaled $33,238.
The Lincoln County Rodeo Association Inc., producers of the Wisconsin River Pro Rodeo, would like to thank all of the sponsors, contestants, and spectators for making 2016 another successful year in Pro Rodeo. Pro Rodeo will be back in 2017 on June 9th, 10th, and 11th.