The 2016 rodeo season in the state of Idaho was nothing less than as exciting as expected. From the time Spring thawed the Northwest soil until the leaves started dropping from the trees, the sound of hooves pounding across arena floors was the theme song of cowboys and cowgirls across the region. It was only reasonable that the season should end with one last thunderous rodeo, and that’s exactly what the Idaho Cowboys Association Finals delivered.

With the late-October temperatures dropping, the performances went inside, taking up space in the Canyon County Fair Building in Caldwell. This was a new, and very appropriate setting for the Finals, providing shelter from the unpredictable weather and making a very comfortable venue. Not only was the size and cover a relief, but the brand new Priefert chutes and panels brought the feel and function of the nearby (and top-notch) CNR arena to the field. Fans still turned out in numbers that overwhelmed the seating, all packed in to see the best competitors of the year put their best effort on the floor in hopes of taking home one of the host of awards waiting for the winners.

For the best competitors, the best stock was selected, bringing in animal athletes from Superior Rodeo Co., King Cattle, Gold Buckle Rodeo, Williams and Ford, and High Desert Rough Stock. There’s a particular excitement that comes with seeing your favorite animals from the year (and years past) come bounding down an alley toward the pens, holding the heritage of rodeo on their backs, and the promise of an exciting weekend in their eyes.

None of the above disappointed. From the time the first American Hat nodded until the last cloud of dust settled back onto the floor, everyone in attendance was given all they could expect, and then some. With each progressive high-scoring ride and low-scoring loop, the pressure mounted, and every tick of the timers’ stopwatches meant more and more. From Yakima, WA to Orvada, NV, and Redmond, OR to Shoshone, ID, and even from Caldwell, competitors had already put a substantial amount of time, money, and energy into their seasons, and not a drop of sweat was going to be wasted. Whether throwing a rope or seating themselves firmly on one and grabbing it for dear life, everyone approached their event with the dogged intensity that you can only expect to see at a Finals level. Tommye Flenniken threw at about his millionth pair of heels with the same determination that young Cauy Pool showed in his first finals ever, all demonstrating that special dedication that takes a competitor to championship caliber.

While rodeo revels in the unexpected. though, the ICA was dealt a surprise blow between performances that will take some time to reconcile. After Saturday evening, we said goodnight to each other, including our longtime friend Tommy Charters, not knowing that he would be taken from us later that night, and our goodnights were really goodbyes. Tommy was well-known as a rodeo clown throughout the area, but also worked hard in stock pens and around rodeo in a variety of ways, and at much higher levels as well. He was not just personnel, though – he was a good guy, a family man, and a friend to so many. The shock of his passing was far greater than any other we’ve felt at a rodeo performance lately, with a virtually palpable sorrow settled over the arena. Rodeo wouldn’t be the same on Sunday.

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Next year will bring a new class of rookies of the year, and while most figure that Jordan Minor will probably still dominate the D&B All-Around, other champions will come and go in the standings. The loss of Tommy is an irreplaceable one, though, and it will be felt for some time. The best way to honor a cowboy like him is to do just what we did. We rodeoed, and crowned champions. It’s the Western way, and it was Tommy’s way.

Long live rodeo.

Your 2016 champions of the ICA are:

  • D & B All Around : Jordan Minor – $28,826.70
  • Bareback: Ty Jones – $5,200.17
  • Tie Down: Shane Erickson – $13,282.97
  • Saddle Bronc: Jacob Stacy – $8,920.61
  • Breakaway: Bailey Minor – $14,455.82
  • Steer Wrestling: Jacob Stacy – $8,129.65
  • Team Roping Header:  Jack Fischer – $9,966.67
  • Team Roping Heeler: Andy Carlson – $11,215.15
  • Barrel Racing: Jordan Minor – $14,738.89
  • Bull Riding: Caleb McMillian – $6,431.67
  • Novice Bareback: Cauy Pool
  • Novice Saddle Bronc: Clancy Glenn
  • Novice Bulls: Austin McFadden
  • Stock Ranch Bronc Riding: Tegan Nevarez

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