Rodeo grounds spruced up with new raised seating areas

The 36th annual Isanti Firefighters Rodeo will be entertaining more huge crowds the evenings of July 6-7 at the recently remodeled Isanti Rodeo Grounds.

Isanti Fire Department Rodeo Chairman Tom Pagel is proud of the new preferrred seating/club section at the Rodeo Grounds, rebuilt after the July 2011 storm trashed the old raised seating section. Photo by Greg Hunt

“After last year’s rodeo, the storm that hit Isanti took the whole existing preferred seating down. So we decided to rebuild it, adding length to the preferred seating section to make a new club section above the bucking shoots. Then we kept going by adding more club suites on the north end of the arena,” explained Rodeo Chairman Tom Pagel during a recent tour of the grounds. “The preferred seats are all sold out. The suites are made for 10-person groups, and some are still available. And some club seats ($50) on the east side are still open. They’re kind of neat because you can see the riders getting prepped before they hit their event.”

Groups renting the rodeo suites for a night are set up with food, beverages and reserved parking. The rodeo announcer’s booth is also now situated in the club suites on the north side, overlooking the chutes for events such as steer wrestling and team roping.

“It’s kind of funny because the old preferred seating was built in the early 1980s, and they lasted all these years,” said Pagel. Steve Foley Construction was tasked with building the new digs on the rodeo grounds.

Mutton Bustin’ and dancin’ galore

Something new for the kids at this year’s rodeo is Mutton Bustin’– a sheep-riding challenge for children at least 5 years old and who weigh 55 lbs. or less. Pre-registration is required by calling 763-464-2508, and all contestants get a trophy for getting in the ring. Mutton Bustin’ begins at 6 p.m. for both rodeo performances.

“They do Mutton Bustin’ all over at rodeos, and we’ve just never done it. I watched it at Heidelberger’s Pine City Rodeo up at Rock Creek last summer when (MN Viking) Jared Allen was up helping with the event,” said Pagel. “Kids get a helmet and try to hang on to the sheep. Sheep don’t buck– they just run. It looks like a fun time for the kids, and it’s a life-long memory!”

After all the action gets done in the ring, people are invited to hit the two post-rodeo country rocking dances. The Iron Horse group will play Friday night, and Saturday night’s performers are Sterns County 17.

Getting back to the rodeo, Pagel said he is expecting somewhere between 350 to 450 PRCA contestants competing in the 36th Isanti Rodeo.

“It works out really well that we’re the same weekend as the Hamel and Spooner, Wis. rodeos, so riders making the trip up here can hit all of them to earn as many points as possible for the miles,” explained Pagel. “As usual, slack (any overflow competitors) will be held at 1 p.m. on Thursday, which is free to anyone wanting to come up for an afternoon taste of rodeo. That’s actually a pretty good time, and the Isanti Chamber Pig Roast follows up later that afternoon, then the parade is that night.”

The Isanti Firegifhters District has a new updated website,, with a rodeo section. Visit it for information updates and to order tickets online. Advance adult ticket prices remain at $10, children ages 4-12 are $5, and ages 3 and under are free. Further information can be obtained by calling the new rodeo “hotline” at 763-464-2508.

“Invite your friends and relatives, and make it a family weekend to remember,” says Rodeo Chairman Pagel.