Idaho is a small state. Now, to be sure, it takes up a fair amount of space on the map, at 14th largest by area, but despite steady growth, still ranks 44th out of the 50 states for density — just the way we like it. Canyon is not the largest county, and neither Caldwell nor Nampa are going to be more than a pinpoint on your desktop globe, but there is one thing these small towns combined do better than anyone else does: Rodeo.
For such a small area to boast not only one, but two major Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) rodeos is a resource to truly be proud of, and it is a significant boasting point for both of these towns, as well as the area in general. Yet, for the fact that these two rodeos occur within a scant few minutes’ drive of each other, distance-wise, and just a few weeks apart on the calendar, they could hardly be more different. Both are part of the PRCA, which means that the best riders, ropers, stock, contract acts, booth personnel, and all auxiliaries, are going to be a part. Idaho boasts many fine rodeos under the Idaho Cowboys Association (ICA) spread across the state, and some other PRCA sanctioned events, but the fact that the combined payoff at these two rodeos is a whopping $722,000 means that they grab the attention of travelling cowboys and cowgirls all across North America.
Nampa’s Snake River Stampede is the first of the two to occur, and boasting one of the biggest payoffs in the country, it also brings the most theatrics. From the venue — the Idaho Center hosts many professional sports events in addition to this one — to the personnel and presentation, everything is top-notch. Looking through the daily is like reading a “who’s who” of National Finals Rodeo contestants nearly every performance, and the Cervi Rodeo Company stock is the very finest in the business, so you get your money’s worth of entertainment every time, every night. Even the announcer, Boyd Polhamus, is an NFR regular. His crew at the booth doing all the timing, sound, recording and the like, and the Stampeders drill team are no less experienced.
Nearing a century in its existence, the Stampede is clear and obvious in its effort to put out a premium-grade event from top to tail, and it never fails to do just that.
Many old-timers lament the movement of the Stampede from the old “Green Queen” outdoor venue to the Idaho Center, and it isn’t hard to find them boasting that they won’t even attend the event in its new digs. All one can say in reply is, “Man…you don’t know what you’re missing.”
For all that, though, don’t think that the Caldwell Night Rodeo is taking a backseat for even a moment. Being an outdoor event, it has an entirely different atmosphere. Sure, it’s the same seven components as any other major rodeo (plus the clown act), but the feel is as much a contrast as it could be. All the seating is bleachers, the action is closer, the sun is hot, and you’re likely to be dusty before you ever find your way to your seat. Even the stock at CNR has a different feel, brought in by the Powder River and Burch companies, and you see more local contestants riding and roping. (It feels that way, anyways. Can’t say I actually counted them.)
There is something rabid about the diehard CNR fans, right down to the side of the arena on which they choose to sit. The city of Nampa takes great pride in their rodeo week, but Caldwell has a different way of taking out their civic pride inside the arena, and it is a very original kind of “loud and proud!” CNR’s boast of being the rodeo “Where the cowboys are the stars” is well warranted by a crowd that would vociferously boo a bull rider’s score of 70, even if the critter walked to the center of the arena, knelt for the rider to dismount, and blew him a kiss on the way to the exit chute. Call them unrefined if you like, (they aren’t the type to mind much) but they like big rides and big scores every time. Incidentally, none of the bulls tried any such stunt this year. In fact, they were tossing cowboys right and left, and when someone like JW Harris held on for 8, he was justly rewarded with an 87. Yes, there was cheering.
Both of these rodeos do what they do well, even if there are marked differences, but for the Treasure Valley to be able to boast that both call this place home is no small thing. Even the governor showed up for both, and proved that he and the first lady of Idaho can both ride like champs!
It seems that everyone takes their side — you’re a Stampede guy, or you’re a CNR guy. Everyone wants to know which one I am.
I just like rodeo.