It’s an authentic tradition approaching its centennial mark – a true slice of Americana, and it’s happening next week in Western North Dakota — the Killdeer Mountain Roundup Rodeo.

History shows the attraction of the Killldeer Mountain Roundup. It started in Oakdale, north of Killdeer.

For nearly 100 years the Killdeer Mountain Roundup Rodeo has entertained families at the start of summer, sometimes at the end of June, but most often around the Fourth of July Holiday.  It moved to town about 60 years ago, in 1955. For 85 years, it was on a flat below the hills near Oakdale.  In either location, it has maintained its unique spectator quality – the hillside.

History shows the attraction of the Killldeer Mountain Roundup. It started in Oakdale, north of Killdeer.

From the beginning at Oakdale, one of the trademark attractions to the Killdeer Rodeo was the hillside arena. This image from 1924 shows how the tradition started before the rodeo moved to Killdeer.

The Killdeer Mountain Roundup Rodeo is Fourth of July Family Entertainment


 People like to come to the Killdeer Rodeo “to sit on the hillside, bring blankets, lawn chairs, relax and watch,” said Stacy Steffan.  “It’s an important tradition in Killdeer, people support it.”

Organizers have set ticket prices low enough for families to provide low-cost entertainment for those with youngsters.  Food and beverages are available, so a picnic on the hillside next to the arena will give families a memorable way to mark America’s birthday. 

The family entertainment includes the Texas Rodeo Clown, Bert Davis, the Coppertown Clown and His Dogs. (Read more here about Bert Davis, the Coppertown Clown) For more than 40 years, this veteran rodeo clown, barrelman, and performer has appealed to children and adults with his trained dogs.  His “Mutley Crew” of rescue dogs have been nominated for the PRCA Comedy Act of the Year.

The Killdeer Saddle Club and the Killdeer Lions Club have worked all the facets of this year’s rodeo to provide top-notch accommodations, entertainment, competition, and prize money.  The purse, this year, is $40,000. That much money helps attract the cowboy athletes to try winning top points.  Steffan said contestants are also attracted to the rodeo because the grounds are in good shape; the dirt work of the arena gives the bulls and horses good footing.  That improves the competition and is a safety feature to draw cowboys who know solid footing is essential.

Professional competition from both the cowboys and the animals

The Killdeer Mountain Roundup Rodeo has a long tradition of professional competition.  It’s the oldest PRCA rodeo in North Dakota. “Spectators come because of the quality stock,” said Steffan. “People like the rough stock and J-Bar-J has some of the best,”  Steffan said J-Bar-J stock will help cowboys earn more points, and spectators get to see intense competition between man and beast. Each ride is based on a 50-50 combination of animal and rider athleticism. Potential contestants are attracted to a rodeo by the stock contractor. They know the good animals will help them get a share of the prize money.   The contestants who don’t make the main events compete in what is called “slack.”  The slack competition is Sunday at 5 p.m. and Tuesday at 8 a.m.  

(Read more about J Bar J here.)

Fourth of July Activities


Click here to read more about Killdeer and the rodeo

The main event of the day is the rodeo at 6:30 at the arena on the south side of town. Monday night, July 3, at 9:00 p.m. is the annual family street dance, a decades-old tradition that 100 years ago brought families in to town for socializing and merriment.  It’s for all ages. The local group Pistol Grip will entertain downtown by the Buckskin Bar and Grill.

On Tuesday, the Fourth, you can eat at the barbeque at noon, and then enjoy the parade at 3:00 p.m. The rodeo is at 6:30.  At 9:00 is the annual fireworks display.  

Plans for future Killdeer Mountain Roundup Rodeo

The Killdeer Mountain Roundup Rodeo is the oldest Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) sanctioned rodeo in the state.   It’s the long tradition of local cowboy competition that makes this rodeo unique of all the rodeos in North Dakota.  At times, the membership in the local Killdeer Saddle Club has dwindled, but recently, Steffan said, the club has grown with new members, younger people who are what she calls “rodeo people.”

Starting with the first gatherings at Oakdale in 1924, and continuing to today, the core group of locals put in the work to keep it going.  Sam Rhoades is credited with starting the rodeo at the resort location in the hills of the Killdeer Mountain.  That’s the flavor and personality the club intends to continue to foster. 

The recent population growth in Dunn County and especially Killdeer has grown up to surround the rodeo grounds on the south side of town.  Steffan said, “We’re looking at moving to a rural setting, open country.  Land prices were too high for us to consider, but now things are stabilizing a bit so we’re more likely to move.  The sooner the better.”

Attending this year’s rodeo will give you a place in history.  In years to come, your children or grandchildren will tell stories about back when the rodeo was in town, way back in 2017.


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