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The National High School Finals Rodeo confirms its return to Gillette in 2028 & 2029


The National High School Finals Rodeo (NHSFR) will return to Gillette in 2028 and 2029 after an agreement was signed with the Campbell County Land Board earlier this month. The land board oversees the Cam-plex facilities that host the rodeo. This will mark the 14th and 15th years that Gillette has hosted the NHSFR since it first came in 1993. The NHSFR will be in Gillette this year as well.

The NHSFR will replace the National Junior High School Finals Rodeo Association events that were supposed to take place in Gillette in 2028 and 2029.

“That would have been the first time that the junior nationals would have ever come to Gillette and really an unknown event,” said Aaron Lyles, Executive Director of the Cam-plex. “We were able to transition into the high school finals because where they had originally been bid and awarded in Kansas City [for the NHSFR], that venue was not able to ultimately accommodate them in ‘28 and ’29, and so we ended up trading off the ‘28 and ‘29 juniors for the ‘28 and ‘29 high school [rodeo].”

The National Junior High School Rodeo is about two thirds the size of the NHSFR in terms of attendance and has never been held in Gillette. But as Lyles explained Kansas City was unable to accommodate the NHSFR so the two venues switched rodeos. They were able to do this because both rodeo’s are overseen by the National High School Rodeo Association (NHSRA).

The contract for 2028 and 2029 differs somewhat from previous contracts between the NHSRA and the Cam-plex. They include a more favorable cancellation clause for the Cam-plex and fees on cleaning stalls, among others.

The terms and conditions would also hold the NHSRA to the same terms as the Cam-plex’s are.

Cam-plex officials are currently drawing up their master plan for future years, which is expected to be completed by August. The decision by the NHSRA to ink a long-term deal with the Oklahoma facility for the junior high rodeo showcased their seriousness of holding their events at venues that meet their requirements. Lyles also indicated that the Cam-plex is in talks with other major organizations about holding events in Gillette in coming years, though he declined to name them due to them being in the negotiating process.

“It brings all the more reality to the fact that after 2029 if we don't have those facilities that can meet that indoor vending required [for NHSFR beginning in 2030], we'd likely not ever see the rodeo back in Gillette at that point,” Lyles said.

However, the NHSFR will be returning this summer for its 13th year, which was agreed to as part of a previous contract. It was also held in Gillette in 2022, which set attendance records. Early indications show that this year’s events may continue the trend as the rodeo celebrates a milestone anniversary.

“It's a very special year, the 75th anniversary of the National High School Finals Rodeo,” Lyles said. “We anticipate that it will be the largest rodeo ever held within the Association's history.”

This year’s rodeo will be held from July 16-23.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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