The 29th Wisconsin River Pro Rodeo will once again bring the thrills and spills of professional rodeo to the Merrill Festival Grounds this Friday through Sunday.
Activities kick off Friday afternoon with a test drive event sponsored by Brickner’s Park City and Ram trucks. Proceeds will benefit the Never Forgotten Honor Flight. Friday night’s Armed Services Appreciation rodeo performance is at 7 p.m., with $1 from every ticket sold going to the Never Forgotten Honor Flight. The rodeo performance will be followed by live music.
Saturday starts with a free antique stock tractor pull at 9 a.m. Saturday night is the Tough Enough to Wear Pink rodeo performance. Contestants and spectators are encouraged to wear pink in support of cancer awareness. Proceeds from pink clothing sold at the rodeo will be donated to Marshfield Clinic to support cancer education, awareness and treatment locally. Live music will featured after the rodeo.
At noon on Sunday, the new Wisconsin River Pro Rodeo queen will be crowned. Vying for the crown are: Madison, daughter of Danielle Schulz and Tyler Hess, Merrill; Kaiti, daughter of Brenda and Tom Bargender, Wausau; Brooke, daughter of Lisa Pliska and Mark Sowiak, Wausau; and Allison, daughter of Amy Tillman and Thomas Tillman, Wausau.
The queen coronation will be followed by a 1 p.m. rodeo performance.
This year’s rodeo will feature several contestants with ties to Merrill. On Friday, Katie Van Der Geest and Karissa Gipple will compete in barrel racing. Saturday morning’s slack contestants will include barrel racers Jamie Lenzner, Jessica Demell and Beanna Jerde. On Saturday night, Noah Lassa will compete in tie down roping and steer wrestling, while Lee Van Der Geest will compete in team roping. Sunday’s performance will include barrel racers Amy (Van Der Geest) Butler, Beth (Van Der Geest) Gwaltney and Tammy Gwaltney, along with team ropers Gabe Gwaltney and Jeff Butler.
The Wisconsin River Pro Rodeo is organized by an all-volunteer committee. The rodeo has been recognized for its hospitality. In 2017, WRPR won the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association National Award for Small Committee of the Year. The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Great Lakes Circuit has voted them the best medium sized rodeo in 2016, 2011 and 2009.