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Ranch Rodeo | Dakota Life

When ranch rodeo prizes are awarded Brett Wilcox’ team placed second and Hayes Wilcox won the mutton busting belt buckle.

On many western South Dakota ranches horses are used to round up cattle. And often a rancher will put their roping skills to use to catch a sick cow so they can administer medication.

During the annual Rancher Round-Up and rodeo, cowboys of all ages get to put their horsemanship, roping and other ranch skills to the test.

Held each summer in August, the ranch rodeo is a unique community tradition that draws hundreds to Union Center.

Announcer audio: “Right here, right now, we’re watching Parker Wilcox. Let’s go Parker. That young man is all business, not a smile, he is concentrating on what he is doing.”

Seven-year-old Parker Wilcox is focused as he trots his horse Cornbread toward the bucket at the far end of the arena. As he approaches, he drops his flag in the bucket and turns Cornbread around. Horse and rider race to the other end of the arena, and while Cornbread is on the move, Parker picks up a flag out of the second bucket. Seconds after entering the rodeo arena, he and Cornbread make their exit.

“You get to go fast and there are cool prizes,” said Parker Wilcox.

Parker and his twin brother, Hayes, competed in the flag race with about 75 other ranch kids.

“Flags is the funniest,” said Hayes Wilcox.

The flag race is one of several youth events held during the annual Rancher Round-Up ranch rodeo.

For the Wilcox’s, this ranch rodeo is a family affair.

The twin’s dad, Brett, helps with the Flag Race and competes in the afternoon ranch rodeo. And their mom, Melissa, is the event’s organizer.

“That’s the best part, it’s being able to put on something that they can go and do and watching them learn and grow and have fun,” Melissa Wilcox said.

Like most families competing the Wilcox’s ranch. So, the horsemanship skills Parker and Hayes need for the flag race, poles and barrel race are practiced daily.

“They do a lot of ranch riding, so learning how to steer your horse, stop them and stuff … They learn a lot just chasing cows and all that kind of stuff,” Melissa Wilcox said.

And then there’s the community aspect of the Ranchers Round-Up ranch rodeo.

“You know, we are ranching all the time. We are busy. We are working. So, this time of year, it is nice for everybody to be able to step out of their haying equipment,” Melissa Wilcox said.

Brett Wilcox agrees. The third-generation Union Center rancher said now that haying season is wrapped up, he’s ready for some friendly competition.

“They’re all guys that stood up with me at my wedding. They’re all my friends, the guys I work with every day,” Brett Wilcox said.

Stray gather, range doctor, trailer loading is the first event Brett’s team competes in.

“It kind of goes back to what we do. If there’s a bull with a sore foot, we load him in the trailer. If one needs a doctored, we rope him and doctor him. So, kind of what everyone is doing on a normal day,” Brett Wilcox said.

Area cowboys gather to listen to Ranch Rodeo rules during the 21st Annual Rancher Round-up Ranch Rodeo held August 16 in Union Center at Cammack Ranch Supply.
Lura Roti
Area cowboys gather to listen to Ranch Rodeo rules during the 21st Annual Rancher Round-up Ranch Rodeo held August 16 in Union Center at Cammack Ranch Supply.

But this is not your typical day on the ranch. The Rancher Round-Up is a community tradition hosted by Cammack Ranch Supply for 21 years Reed Cammack explained.

Reed and his wife, Amber, are second-generation owners. This year they purchased the business from his parents, Gary and Amy.

“The locals enjoy coming out and watching the local kids compete. It’s really a regional deal. We have kids and families who come from a long way and some really good teams in the ranch rodeo that come in the afternoon, real competitive regional cowboys that know how to set a horse, know how to put on a good show in the arena,” Reed Cammack said.

Lura Roti grew up on a ranch in western South Dakota but today she calls Sioux Falls home. She has worked as a freelance journalist for more than two decades. Lura loves working with the SDPB team to share the stories of South Dakota’s citizens and communities. And she loves sharing her knowledge with the next generation. Lura teaches a writing course for the University of Sioux Falls.
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