Saddle On Up for The Little Britches Rodeo WI State Finals from August 18-19
Come on out to the Amherst Fairgrounds from August 18-19 to watch young cowboys and cowgirls between the ages of six and 18 compete in various roping events and watch Rodeo Queen 2018 get crowned as a part of the Little Britches Rodeo of Wisconsin (LBW).
The LBW is a joint venture of the committees of Tomorrow River Lions Club and Amherst Boots and Saddle Club. The two-day event begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, August 18 and the finals begin Sunday, August 19.
Activities include barrel race, tie-down rope, pole bend, break-away rope and bull riding. Tickets are $5 each or 3/$10, which includes entry into a $400 raffle. Kids under 12 are admitted for free.
Now, for the first time in its over 40 year history, Amherst is hosting the state finals of the LBW contest, as a result of falling as the last rodeo destination and with the rodeo association now following the school calendar year.
LBW has a history dating back over 40 years ago when Allen Peterson started it. Allen and his wife, Sunnie, would travel across the state with their five children, Scott, Todd, Cheryl, Susan and Dale to compete. Then, when they grew up and got married, their children competed and they’ve been active ever since.
Sunnie Peterson said what keeps her and her family passionate about the sport and the LBW for all these years were the life-long friendships that they formed as well as watching her family compete and grow up with these friends.
Jenny Blenker, a member of the LBW, said that the rodeo is a good family event. She said the kids work very hard, they’re amazing athletes and they put on a good show. She added that watching the kids, including her own, grow with the sport is part of what keeps her active.
Blenker, who’s in charge of running the Rodeo Queen contest, helps candidates enroll in the competition. As a part of this contest, candidates are judged based on three categories: ticket sales, horsemanship and poise and personality.
At stake for the LBW crown are scholarships that the queen and runner-up are eligible to receive as a result of their high scores in those categories. Scholarships include $1,000 for the queen.
Last year, then 17-year-old Anna Rathe from the Stevens Point, Wisconsin area took home the title.
Anna’s road to the Rodeo Queen started as a shy 10-year-old girl. To get her started, Anna’s great aunt gave her a 38-year-old horse, named Doc. As she got braver, she asked her family to participate in the rodeo.
“We didn’t have the first clue as to how to do this because both my husband and I were ‘city kids,’” Suzanne Rathe, mother of Anna said. “But we rounded up a truck and trailer and hauled Doc out to Amherst to her first LBW.”
When her family got to the LBW, she said they were greeted with incredibly kind and generous people who helped Anna register for her first rodeo.
“Needless to say, Doc was not trained for barrels and her first race went horribly,” Rathe said. “He didn’t know which way to go and she really couldn’t manage him very well.”
Melzy Peterson came around and helped Anna and her horse walk around the barrels with them.
“Her [Anna’s] first year was kind of a mess, but she persevered and kept going,” Rathe said. “There were many people in LBW who will even say today, that the first time they saw her rope, they thought there was no way she was ever going to amount to anything. She was roping on this old rope horse with no tail. He was a wreck.”
As a result of this disappointment, Anna did not go to another rodeo for the next four years, but her setback didn’t discourage her from learning and seeking out resources, that would help her grow in the sport. Soon enough, she was roping fast and winning.
She won her first buckle at the LBW and in 2017, she was the Senior Girls Breakaway Champion and took third place as a heeler in team roping. During her junior and senior years of high school, she had the fastest time for breakaway roping at the state finals, as a part of the Wisconsin High School Rodeo.
As her skills and confidence grew, Anna this time expressed interest in running for the 2017 LBW Rodeo Queen. Suzanne said she was caught a little off guard initially by this news because she couldn’t believe that her daughter, being so shy, would want to give speeches, answer impromptu questions and perform in a horsemanship competition.
“This was the best thing for Anna,” Rathe said. “She had to learn to approach people to sell raffle tickets as well as interact with all sorts of people asking about rodeo. She really has been a great inspiration for many young girls and boys throughout the past year. I can say that LBW has transformed all of our lives, because we didn’t even own a truck when we started this adventure, but it has truly made a difference in Anna’s life,” Rathe said. “We can credit rodeo with giving her the confidence, patience, perseverance and dedication skills that one needs to be successful in life in general. Even though she still is a shy girl, she has learned to come out of her shell so much more.”
Suzanne said Anna was able to capture the crown last year not only because of her hard work, but because she’s an all-around genuine person.
“She honestly cares for people individually, not just in general. She wants to make sure that everyone has the chance to reach their own potential and she is good at seeking out kids who might need that extra helping hand here and there.”
After the 2018 LBW rodeo ends, Anna will be heading off to South Dakota State University, where she’ll be part of the rodeo team there, as a SDSU jackrabbit.
“This rodeo will be bittersweet for Anna. It will be her last LBW rodeo,” Rathe said. “Anna has a lot of favorite memories from rodeo, but I can tell you that in addition to some that I’ve mentioned (first rodeo, first buckle, crowned queen), her favorite memories will include the rodeo family that she has,” Rathe. “The hardest part about moving on is that she won’t see her rodeo family 20 some odd weekends out of every year. You grow close to everyone and they will be her fondest memories.”