GREAT FALLS — For 43 years, the best cowboys and cowgirls in the Treasure State have met in Great Falls for the Montana Circuit Finals. And Montana PRCA president Jack Stensland of Wolf Point has been present for all of them, starting as a barrelman in 1980.
"I remember back when we first started this, the north wall led directly outside,” Stensland said.
"And we'd open up the doors to let the stock in the arena would fill up with fog and we'd have to hold the rodeo for just a little bit so the judges can see what they're judging."
A lot has changed since then. Better facilities, bigger checks, more competitors. But the energy surrounding the finals remains the same.
“It’s just a lot enthusiasm in Great Falls when you drive in and you start setting the arena up, which we're doing now, and getting everything ready,” Stensland said during a break in prep at Montana Expo Park.
It’s been said that the Montana Circuit is likely the most competitive in the entire PRCA, and the finals are the best in the circuit system. It’s easy to see why. This year’s field includes eight competitors who qualified for the 2022 National Finals Rodeo, three world champions, and several rising stars.
Helena’s Ty Erickson and Miles City’s Haven Meged won 2019 world titles in steer wrestling and tie-down roping respectively. Jesse Kruse, a 2009 world saddle bronc champ, is also a mainstay.
Hot shot roughstock riders Chase Brooks and Sage Newman are bother former circuit champs who earned boatloads of money at the NFR.
And this years MPRF will have an expanded breakaway roping event during each performance.
But this year we’re running all 12 each night so that's going to be good watch,” Stensland said. “This is a fast event because if you're blinking and they run a 2.8 you've lost it. So people are paying attention and there's not a bad seat in the house.”
Two years ago the Circuit Finals were held in Kalispell due to COVID-19 protocols in Great Falls, but they returned in 2022. And if everyone gets their wish, the event will be in Great Falls for another 43 years.
“It’s our home,” Stensland said. “It’s where we belong.”
Thursday night marks the first of three star studded performances. Tickets are still available. For more information visit prorodeomontana.com