The Casey Tibbs Match of Champions saddle bronc gala set for its 27th go-round this summer in Fort Pierre has been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials with the Casey Tibbs Foundation announced on Thursday.
The annual event brings the nation’s best bronc riders to town. Just in June 2018, Ryder Wright, the 2017 National Champion Saddle Bronc rider from Utah who by now has earned more than $1 million rodeoing, headlined a group of riders that included 10 of the top 15 saddle bronc cowboys.
The money won here isn’t that much compared with the rodeos in Fort Worth, Texas, or Cheyenne, Wyo. But the saddle-bronc-only event is sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, so the money won here counts to each cowboy’s year-long winnings, which determine who goes to the National Finals in Las Vegas.
The event that began in 1994 takes its name from Casey Tibbs who grew up on a ranch northwest of Fort Pierre and helped revolutionize rodeo with his string of nine championships from 1949-1959, including six saddle-bronc championships. Wright, who has a whole bunch of relatives also rodeoing at top levels, broke a key record of Tibbs: in 2017 he became the youngest saddle bronc champ at 19. Tibbs won it in 1949 when he was 20. He died in 1990 at the age of 60.
In 2018, Tibbs’ only child, Beth Donley from California, attended the Match of Champions, visiting her many relatives in the area.
“The decision made by the Casey Tibbs board of directors was not an easy one, to say the least,” said Kalyn Eulberg, executive of the foundation, in a news release. “The uncertainty of this health crisis, the valued health of all those involved, and the hardships many of our sponsors are currently facing due to this pandemic were major factors that ultimately led to the decision to cancel the Casey Tibbs Bronc Match this year. Our hearts are heavy, but we want everyone to remain healthy, and we look forward to the 2021 Casey Tibbs Match of Champions.”
Currently, the Casey Tibbs Foundation Tribute Dinner is still scheduled for Nov. 7. Nominations for tributes are due June 1. For more information, questions or concerns, contact Kalyn at the Casey Tibbs South Dakota Rodeo Center at 605-494-1094 or firstname.lastname@example.org.