Now in her sixth year as the producer of the bareback and saddle bronc competition at the Junior World Finals, Lacie DeMers has had to deal with a lot of changes. Last year’s event was even moved from Las Vegas to Arlington, Texas, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Even with this year’s JWF returning in December to its usual home at the Wrangler Rodeo Arena in the South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center, DeMers knows there are still challenges ahead.
“It’s been a huge challenge for our international contestants,” she said. “We have almost 40 carded contestants that compete in Canada, and just the uncertainty of when and if the border will be open has been really hard for them. And we might have only one of the kids out of Australia who will be here this year and that’s only because he was already in the United States.
“It’s been a tough year,” she added. “I think we’ve been affected more by COVID this year than we were last year, believe it or not.”
DeMers is quick to point out, however, that she’s not complaining. In fact, what the contestants and their families, as well as the contractors and the many sponsors of the Junior Roughstock Association, have had to deal with in the past 20 months gives her a greater appreciation for this year’s Junior World Finals.
“Having those strong cowboy roots of not giving up has allowed this to continue this year,” she said. “It’s just like working out in the pasture. Sometimes you’ve got to find a solution on how to get that last cow in. And that mentality has really helped these kids and the families because they had to find a way to make it happen for the kids.”
The bareback and saddle bronc competition will get things started at the JWF on Dec. 2 with “close to 100 contestants,” according to DeMers. They will compete in four divisions – Rookies (ages 10-11), Juniors (12-13), Seniors (14-15) and Novice (16-18). The finals in both events, as well as in bull riding, are set for Dec. 6. By adapting the age groups to mirror those of the bull riding, there will be a true roughstock all-around champion in each of the age groups.
“I think everybody is excited this year coming back to Las Vegas,” DeMers said. “Texas treated us really well. However, it just wasn’t that same feeling as Vegas.”
Even though some sponsors of the bareback and saddle bronc competition have had to deal with inventory issues that are out of their control, DeMers said those hardships won’t be felt by the competitors.
“Overall, we are very thankful for our sponsors because they have been very loyal and dedicated to us the past six years,” DeMers said. “And because of them our prize lines and payouts should be just as good as they were in the past, if not better this year.”
Another challenge DeMers and those involved with the Junior Rodeo Association faced this year was a shortage of hay supplies because of drought conditions across the United States. That forced some of the JRA’s smaller contractors to combine with larger contractors.
Once again, though, those involved found a way to make it work.
“Our contractors have worked their way through it and made sure that these events will happen for the kids,” DeMers said. “They want to make sure these kids get on the same quality of animal they have in the past, which we are very grateful for.”
So while DeMers and her team, along with everybody involved with putting on this year’s Junior World Finals, have faced a number of challenges throughout the year, she expects this year’s bareback and saddle bronc competition to be as good as it’s ever been.
“We’ve been fortunate that we have been able to keep going,” DeMers said. “We didn’t stop when everybody else stopped. We just found a solution and we were able to move forward.
“It’s the Cowboy Way.”