Rodeo has been a big thing in Caldwell Idaho since 1935, so much so that it has become closely tied to part of the town’s identity. One can’t go very far in the little old-west flavored city limits without reminders that they have their very own event. It’s important to the residents of Caldwell, rodeo fans in the Treasure Valley, and the cowboys and cowgirls of the PRCA.

A rodeo that’s been around this long is bound to bring a sense of tradition and heritage with it, and the Caldwell Night Rodeo does not disappoint in that department. There is an understanding with every performance that the unpredictability of the sport will be balanced by the expectations of eight-plus decades of existence, and sure enough in its latest incarnation, the annual Idaho staple managed to step up its game again.

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Stepping into the arena immediately informed anyone who had previously attended the CNR that some noticeable changes had been made. From stem to stern, the arena has been updated and upgraded, including most noticeably a brand new chute and gate system by Priefert. Bedecked in CNR’s official blue, red, and white colors, the new system not only presents a radically new (and extremely professional) image, it is also a step up in functionality from the aged and time-weary system it is replacing. With this new Priefert addition, the flow of traffic has also changed in the arena with a big center gate to allow easier access from the sides of the arena. It is a remarkable visual improvement that gives the arena a new feel, and everyone from competitors to committee and personnel to photographers raved about the stability and reliability.

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New though the chutes and gates might be, when the hands of the clock reached the appointed hour and the first rider marked out for his shot at a chance at the prize money, it was all the same again—the same as it has been since the ’30s and even before. Caldwell has a way of bringing in some of the very best, and the 2015 edition featured some legendary names like Bobby Mote and Cody Ohl, hot hands like Tuf Cooper and Kaycee Feild, and locals Tyler Nelson and Megan Lewis. Everything on the field panned out as excitingly as rodeo can, including a ridiculous 88-point ride by Aaron Pass on Powder River’s 16X in the Thursday evening performance. When a big bull roars out of the gate, spins in a dizzying circle, and gives the rider everything he can handle including a solid punch in the mouth on the first buck, you can’t ask for anything more cowboy than that, and that’s precisely what Pass and the black bull gave us.

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There will be a big change coming to the Caldwell Night Rodeo that will alter a sort of tradition to which fans have become accustomed. On Saturday evening it was announced with much fanfare that 2015 was the last year for the “Thunder From Down Under” at the rodeo. Bullfighter Darrell Diefenbach has made Caldwell his home-for-a-week for years, but with baby on the way, the legendary cowboy protector has decided to retire from life in makeup and  and stay home in Oregon. No one can blame a bullfighter for retiring, but the announcement was met with a cheer that mixed respect, admiration, tribute, and a little bit of reluctance. Dief will certainly be missed in these parts.

CNR 2015 brought quite a bit of change to the table, and it was quite good. Your champions for the year are:

Bareback Riding – Clint Laye – Cadogan, AB – 167 points, $5,192

Steer Wrestling – Trevor Knowles -Mt. Vernon, OR – 12.7 seconds, $9,519

Team Roping Header – Chad Masters – Cedar Hill, TN – 14.6 seconds, $4,314

Team Roping Heeler – Travis Graves – Jay, OK – 14.6 seconds, $4,314

Saddle Bronc Riding – Taos Muncy – Corona, NM – 166 points, $5,320

Tie Down Roping – Cody Ohl – Hico, TX – 25.1 seconds, $5,855

Women’s Barrel Race –Kimmie Wall – Roosevelt, UT – 51.83 seconds, $5,563

Bull Riding – Aaron Pass – Dallas, TX – 88 points, $7,999

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