The College National Finals Rodeo is back in Casper this week for its 22nd year
The College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) kicked off on Sunday at the Ford Wyoming Center in Casper. Events will be held through Saturday, Jun. 18 with approximately 400 of the country's top student athletes representing 11 regions and more than 100 different colleges and universities.
The CNFR has been held annually in Casper since 1999, except for 2020, when the rodeo was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is our home,” said Jim Dewey Brown, Commissioner of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA), which oversees the CNFR. “Casper, Wyoming has been a great home for the CNFR. And, you know, the community embraces this [rodeo].”
Prior to its long-time tenure in central Wyoming, it was held in Rapid City, South Dakota for two years, and Bozeman, Montana for 26 years. When Casper was selected to host the event, it beat out larger cities in more populous states, including Fort Worth, Texas. It’s slated to stay in Casper until at least 2027, Brown said.
“It’s fairly centrally located to our geographical area for the regions and the weather’s nice generally and the community is really behind this rodeo,” Brown added.
About 3,500 student athletes participate in rodeo at colleges and universities nationwide, Brown said. This number is eventually narrowed down to the sport’s top performers that make it to Casper.
The cancellation of the rodeo in 2020 due to COVID-19 saw some competitors already qualify for the CNFR, though they had to qualify again the next year as there was no automatic qualification for the following year's event. It’s estimated that the cancellation cost Casper about $2 million.
Brown, who became Commissioner of the NIRA in January, is seeking to market the sport as well as expand its reach.
“With high school rodeo and pro rodeo, college rodeo sits right in the middle,” he said. “We want to continue growing the sport of rodeo and growing our participation. That’s always [our] number one priority.”
Wyoming will be hosting another national finals rodeo event when the National High School Finals Rodeo comes to Gillette again next month.
Tickets for this year’s CNFR events can be purchased on the Ford Wyoming Center’s website.