PAGE, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation Rodeo Association welcomed the Indian National Final Rodeo Tour to Vermillion Cliffs Arena over Mother’s Day weekend for three full days of rodeo action, including a special open bull riding event hosted by the K.E.Y. Ranch.
The events kicked off through the rain proving that rodeo is still alive in northern Arizona. As the stands filled up with cow-folk, fans and international first-timers alike, they, as announcer Kyle Tom said, “…got a little bit wet, now let’s get a little bit western.”
The long list of 2018 INFR champions on the tour vied to keep bragging rights for the upcoming 2019 showdown in Las Vegas or to make way for hopeful cowboys this October for the world championship round. Categories were represented for all three days: bull riding; bareback, saddle bronc, steer roping, calf roping, team calf roping, steer wrestling, barrel racing, ladies break-away roping, including junior bull riding, youth steer riding and kids woolly riding competition.
Making his debut in the steer riding event was Terron Young, following in his father’s footsteps; the late Kenney Young Jr. Kenny Young Sr. was more than proud to see his grandson stepping into the family legacy.
“[Rodeo] is not going away, it will always be around,” Kenny Young Sr. said when asked if the rodeo way of life has seen better days.
Through the ages, Ken Sr. has tried to keep rodeo alive on the Navajo Reservation since he was a traveling cowboy. The opportunity to pass along the joy of rodeo came with the K.E.Y. Ranch, named for Ken Sr. and his rodeo queen Emily Young. He is hopeful the love of the sport will grow with each new generation.
“I’d like to see more bareback riders. This weekend we had a lot of saddle bronc riders, but we need more bareback riders,” Ken Young Sr. said. “Glad to see a lot of entries in the roping [division], almost 400. I would also like to see the arena grow. I think we’d get more people here if we had a bigger parking lot where contestants and visitors could have their own area. Maybe some shade over the stands.”
As always, the K.E.Y. Ranch brought out their best stock bulls for the drawing; Hilton Hotels, Ice Pick, Twister and Elvis. Showing some of his best professional bull riders championship moves was Kenney’s Homeboy, named for Ken Jr’s favorite bull.
“Kenny’s Homeboy had a real good ride [Saturday] night, he showed out. [Cody Jesus] got an 87 point ride,” Kenny Young Sr. said “With each generation of breeding we make sure to pick the right cow. We take good care of them. From there the [bulls] just know what to do.”
The NNRA thanked the K.E.Y. Ranch for their contribution to the event with a plaque made of photos of INFR champions from the Navajo Nation, which Emily Young and grandson Jacob Monroe accepted on behalf of the ranch.
Kenny Young Sr. gives the credit to his granddaughter, Mitchell Monroe, and the Young family members who made the weekend possible.
“This is a family event. Families travel together and they also compete in the [divisions], it’s a way of life. [Rodeo] is how we were raised.” said Monroe last year at the first INFR tour rodeo in Page.
Monroe still holds that value in the planning of the only INFR tour stop on the Navajo Reservation. From generation to generation, families travel in from Florida, Montana, Oregon and Canadian border reservations, further proving rodeo is a way of life that still thrives.
Rodeo royalty that joined the event was the 2019 Miss All Indian Rodeo Association Queen Asia Kenny; the new 2019 Miss Indian Rodeo Queen Kade She-Rides-A-Blue-Horse Bettelyoun; 2018/19 Miss NNRA Queen Kayllin Hongeva and the former 2018 Miss Indian Rodeo Queen Kaylin Bunion representing the Navajo Nation.
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