KODIAK — For those looking forward to the 50th Kodiak Rodeo and State Fair, there’s good news – you don’t have to wait until August for some competitive cattle-herding fun.
Northland Ranch, Pasagshak Ranch, and Kodiak Baptist Mission Heritage Farms have banded together to hold the first inaugural Kodiak Cattleman’s Rodeo, at Northland Ranch in Kalsin Bay this weekend.
“Since the rodeo in Kodiak first started in Kalsin Bay, we always wanted to do one out there,” said Bonnie Stratman, whose family runs Northland Ranch. “The idea was to bring back the Kalsin Bay rodeo.”
According to Kelly Foreman, assistant executive director of the Kodiak Baptist Mission, the three parties were also trying to figure out a community event that could provide fun for the whole family.
“This is a really fun, unique way to do that,” said Foreman. “People love a good rodeo.”
On July 21 and 22, Northland Ranch will host family activities, a barbecue and (starting at 3 p.m., both days) a rodeo. The family activities include things like a horse drawn wagon, cattle roping lessons and gold panning. On Saturday there will also be a prize draw – registration begins at noon, and winners will be announced at 3 p.m.
“There’ll be some pretty big drawings – one for a Winchester rifle and one for a mountain bike,” said Foreman.
While the ranch has invited food vendors to attend, Kodiak Baptist Mission will also be providing a donations-only barbecue, with brisket and pulled pork on the menu. On Sunday, two chuckwagon cooks from Oklahoma will be giving demonstrations and serving breakfast at 10 a.m.
A “cowboy church service” will begin at 11 a.m.
The rodeo itself will feature all the classic events, like bull riding, team roping, barrel racing, cowboy-mounted shooting, and more. Gates will open at noon on Saturday and at 10 a.m. Sunday, and entry is free for all.
“The Mission is putting on the mounted shooting, the trail course, and all the kids events,” said Stratman. “We and the Flickingers [who run Pasagshak Ranch] are putting on the rodeo – and, of course, it’s held at our ranch.”
Stratman and her family run Northland Ranch, where they have a herd of Scottish Highlanders. The ranch has been owned by the Stratman Family since 1962, bought a little over a decade after Kodiak’s first big rodeo was held in Kalsin Bay.
The earliest mention of a rodeo taking place in Kodiak is in Wanda Fields’ book on the history of ranching in Kodiak, “Now It Can Be Told.”
Fields wrote, “The first rodeo Tommy Gallagher [a rancher who arrived in Kodiak in 1928] could remember was held in the early years of World War II in the ballpark area on the newly constructed Kodiak Naval Station. Some of the participants in the rodeo were Tom Nelson, Tom Felton and Sid Old.”
Most, however, cite a 1951 event as Kodiak’s first official rodeo. That event was put together by John Gibbens and Tom Nelson at Nelson’s Ranch in Kalsin Bay. It is this event that Kodiak Cattleman’s Rodeo is paying tribute to.
“That was Craig [Stratman] and Chris [Flickinger]’s idea,” said Stratman. “They were eager to bring the rodeo back out there to where it started.”
Stratman said that the idea for the rodeo came about last October. The group was assembled at Kalsin Bay to do a round-up and branding of some cattle owned by the Kodiak Baptist Mission. KBM had been looking for a space in which to do trail courses and mounted shooting. Northland Ranch seemed like the best place for it and the idea grew from there.
For the first Kodiak Cattleman’s Rodeo, the groups have pulled out all the stops, including bringing professional rodeo announcer Chad Nicholson to the island. Stratman said that her husband had run into Nicholson while attending a rodeo in Three Rivers, Calif.
“He used to do rodeos on the mainland, so he jumped at the chance to come back to Alaska and especially to Kodiak,” said Stratman.
Following the rodeo on Saturday night, the Twang will be playing a show at 8 p.m. Stratman is also flying in her niece, Katelyn McGeary, from Anchorage.
“She’s going to be singing the national anthem,” said Stratman.
Stratman noted that there will be limited seating, so attendees are invited to bring their own chairs.
“It’s hard to find bleachers in this town,” she said.