GREAT FALLS – The rodeo kicks off at the Montana State Fair Wednesday night and the theme is “Patriot Night.”
What once started as a night of patriotism has taken off and gotten bigger than anyone expected.
Larry Parker, patriot night chairman, said he realizes there are many organizations that honor military members, but most importantly the ones right here in Montana.
“We got the rodeo, we got the community. The military needs to be in the center of that for us as a focus point,” Parker said.
Parker himself was in the military for 20 years and said that’s why he feels it’s important to show both active and retired military members support.
“Rodeo isn’t popular just because people like to just watch bull riding or broncs or just watch a lot of the timed events, you know, bulldogging and roping and stuff. It’s popular because we also celebrate our nation’s military,” Parker said.
Albertson’s and Pepsi are both sponsors for the dinner, providing fried chicken, baked beans, potato salad, or like Parker would say, “a good country style home cooked meal.”
And for the past five years, Parker has made a trophy. Out of the nearly 800 they expect to show up, whoever represents Malmstrom Air Force Base or the Montana National Guard most goes home with the trophy.
“A little competition is always good. It puts a little giddy up in their step,” Parker said.
Parker added that this might be his last year organizing the event, but he hopes it continues for many years to come.
“It’s a community that loves them and honors them and we want to celebrate them on this night with a dinner and a rodeo,” Parker said.
Reporting by Elizabeth Transue for MTN News