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Twin Bridges, Montana

Arena dreams become reality 
By Perry Backus of The Montana Standard

June 22, 2004

The 3 Rivers Arena Club presents Senior Pro Rodeo on June 29 and 30 at the Madison County Fairgrounds in Twin Bridges. Performances are at 7 p.m. each night, with slack run at 9 a.m. each morning. Stock is provided by Hoggan Rodeo Company. Cost is $7 for adults, kids 7-12 are $4 and six and under are free. For more information, call 684-57569. 
Sam Novich, left, Elizabeth Frandsen, and Pete Novich, all members of the 3 Rivers Arena Club, stand inside the arena at the Madison County Fairgrounds. The arena has been built with volunteer labor and donations.

Eight years ago a small group of men and women got together to think about ideas of how to revitalize the Twin Bridges fairgrounds. 
Some of them liked to rope on the weekends. Others liked to rodeo. And a few others thought about how nice it would be to watch western events in the shade of the historic grandstands.

So, like so often happens in Twin Bridges, a group rolled up their sleeves and went to work building an arena that would make any town proud.

Next week, over 200 contestants from all across the country will pull into Twin Bridges for two action packed days of Senior Pro Rodeo.

"We've got some of the best coming here," said Pete Novich, a past president of the 3 Rivers Arena Club. "We've more than doubled the number of contestants from last year."

Senior Pro Rodeo includes contestants ranging from age 40 to 68-plus. The men and women compete in all the familiar rodeo events, including bull riding, steer wrestling and team roping.

The names of many of the contestants will be familiar to those who've followed rodeo for years, said Novich. They include people like Buc Garlington of Texas, Benny Reynolds of Twin Bridges and Leo Camerino of Gallatin Gateway.

"We have people coming who could easily be competing in the PRCA," Novich said. "The paychecks aren't as big with the Senior Pro Rodeo, but all of these people just love it." 

The arena club decided this year to hold the senior pro rodeo in the middle of the week - Tuesday and Wednesday, June 29 and 30 - because the dates fell in between two other rodeos in Idaho and Montana. They figured, rightfully so, that would help attract more contestants.

"A lot of these people take their vacations to rodeo," said Novich. "They're looking for a way to get in as many rodeos as they can during that time...if they take a week off, they can hit six or eight rodeos if they do it right."

Right now contestants are coming from Texas, Arizona, Kansas, Washington State, Oregon, California, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming and Montana.

"There are a lot of retired or semi-retired people traveling the circuit," Novich said. "The nice thing about Senior Pro Rodeo is the camaraderie. It's pretty much like one big family. These people will go out of their way to help one another."

And that fits in just right at the Twin Bridges arena.

The arena was built with a lot of volunteer sweat and donations. That effort is beginning to pay off in a big way.

The arena is beginning to attract events ranging from the Senior Pro Rodeo and NRA rodeo during the fair to a growing number of team roping events on the weekends. The last Pete Novich Memorial Roping event attracted upwards of 315 team roping teams to Twin Bridges.

On Tuesday nights, ropers from the area meet at about 7 p.m. to hone up their skills and share some stories with old and new friends.

"It's a low key kind of deal," said Novich. "That's a time for everyone to come out and have fun. It's not competitive and a perfect time for anyone wanting to learn roping to get their feet wet."

The work at the arena wouldn't have been possible without the support of local businesses, many of which have donated $250 to have a sign posted on the fence. Currently, there are 39 signs posted around the arena.

"We started off with 10 and that number just continued to grow," Novich said. "Right now we have businesses represented in Twin, Ennis, Whitehall, Sheridan and Dillon."

"When those Senior Pros come in and see those signs hanging there, they'll do their best to support those businesses," he said.

"I think we've done really well for a small little town like ours," said Novich.

Copyright Perry Backus and the Montana Standard, reproduced by permission.

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