BILLINGS — The Professional Bull Riders tour returns to Billings on Friday for the 27th straight year, as it continues to be the longest consecutive stop in elite series history. But this one will feel different.
This weekend will be legendary PBR entertainer Flint Rasmussen’s last time on the dirt inside First Interstate Arena at MetraPark — or maybe as it should be known as "The House that Flint Built."
"Billy Joel has Madison Square Garden, I have this place," Rasmussen said during a conversation inside an empty MetraPark earlier in the week. "All I need is the banner, and it would say, ‘Flint: Too many times.'"
Rasmussen’s real number is somewhere around 30, all starting back in 1989.
"It was the NRA rodeo during MontanaFair," he said. "The stock contractor had so little faith in me, he wouldn’t pay me. So I rounded up sponsors to put on my barrel, and that’s the money I made to work in this arena the first time."
The Choteau native immortalized that beginning years ago, rewriting the lyrics to a popular Kid Rock song.
"It was 1989. My pants were tight, my hair was long. Just started my career as a new clown," Rasmussen has sung to numerous crowds over the years.
It’s witty work like that he’ll have the fondest memories of.
"What I’m most proud of are those days where I truly did comedy," he said. "Where I truly came out with some one-liners and things I thought of on the spot."
There’s no one reason why Rasmussen has chosen now to take off the makeup. The physical, mental and emotional grind just kind of add up after 34 years.
Flint made his very first PBR World Finals appearance in the early 2000s and signed an exclusive agreement with the tour in 2005, because he saw where it was heading.
"I went to the PBR because I felt like I had done everything I could in rodeo," he said of that decision. "It wasn't about money, it was about creativity. The PBR is always evolving, always changing with the times, always doing something that sets us apart."
He doesn’t regret the decision he made with his family in mind. It meant working mostly on weekends, instead of four straight months in the summer as daughters Paige and Shelby grew up. But he says it meant giving up other things.
"What I didn’t calculate in my mind was that as my girls got older, all their activities were on the weekends, and I was gone on the weekends," he said. "When I was home, I was home, but they were in school, so it kind of broke a bond we had there."
He spends more and more time these days trying to strengthen it. But his focus this weekend will be on Billings — his last ride in front of his home state.
"This week has always been a little overwhelming," he said of the PBR's only Montana stop. "But for the first time ever, I’m excited to be here. I shouldn't say for the first time ever, but yeah, and a little nervous."
As for next year, he hopes to trade in the dirt for something a little…sandier.
"I’d like to find a beach," Rasmussen said. "And I’m not talking Lake Elmo. I’m talking about a beach beach."
No offense Magic City.