Three Forks NRA Rodeo organizers are expecting a record turnout for next weekend’s annual event after the COVID-19 pandemic forced its cancellation a year ago.

“People are ready to go out and do the things they didn’t get to do last year,” said Christina Kamps of the Three Forks Rodeo Board.

For those folks, there will be plenty to do in Three Forks this weekend.

In addition to the NRA events, visitors will be able to kick off festivities at the Farmers Market on Thursday, July 15, between 4 and 7 p.m.; the Stick Horse Derby Thursday at 5; and a kick-off concert by Levi Blom and Kailey Marie at the Rodeo Arena Thursday evening at 7. Kamps said concert tickets are only $10 so that families can enjoy an “inexpensive fun night” of live music.

Saturday events include a fireman’s breakfast, parade, Rodeo Dayz Street Fair, food truck rodeo, and a magic show. (For a complete and detailed schedule of events, please see page 18.)

The projected turnout for this weekend’s events is especially welcome news for the board and the city of Three Forks, which decided early in 2020 to replace the old and unsafe bleachers at the rodeo grounds, a project that had been identified as a “priority need” years before. At the time, city officials expected to pay for the $595,935 improvement with money the rodeo board had saved for that purpose, along with private donations and proceeds from the 2020 rodeo. But that was before the pandemic threw a monkey wrench into best-laid plans.

After the board was forced to cancel last summer’s event because of the pandemic, the city took out a $310,000, 15-year INTERCAP loan requiring bi-annual payments. Thanks to the generosity of donors, the city was able to make a $17,700 payment in February and has the money in hand to make its $16,400 payment due in August, according to city Treasurer Kelly Smith.

Proceeds from this weekend’s rodeo are expected to cover next February’s payment, Kamps said.

Advance rodeo tickets ($12 for adults and $7 for kids ages 6-12) are available at Murdoch’s, Three Forks Saddlery, and Belgrade’s Rocky Mountain Supply. Tickets at the gate are $3 more.

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