By HARRY CLARKE | SPONSORED
DECADES of local history will be revived in the outback town of Longreach next month when professional horse sports and rough stock events return for the inaugural Road to Rodeo.
Road to Rodeo is a new concept devised by the team behind the Isa Rodeo, which has launched Road to Rodeo in Longreach as a curtain raiser for the iconic Mount Isa Rodeo in August.
Over the May long weekend from Saturday April 30 to Sunday May 1, the Longreach Rodeo Association will host an official Australian Professional Rodeo Association (APRA) circuit event with all the action and excitement for which the Mount Isa Rodeo is renowned.
Isa Rodeo Limited CEO Natalie Flecker said consulting with the Longreach Rodeo Association had been “vital in the journey” to bring the new event to the central west.
“The Longreach Rodeo Association have been incredibly supportive on this event concept,” Flecker said.
“We’ve been working with the team since last year and in addition to our mutual love of the sport of rodeo, both groups can see the benefits that an event like this can bring to both organisations, the community and the Queensland outback.”
Mick Bichsel, secretary of the Longreach Rodeo Association, said “it’s an absolutely terrific opportunity for us and for our small club.
“The concept that the Isa Rodeo team has come up with – to grow the Road to Rodeo and add other events throughout the north west culminating in the major Mount Isa Rodeo – is fantastic.
“Just to be part of that the expertise and professionalism of what they’re doing is great. It’s a big win for us.”
It’s been more than 15 years since Longreach played host to a professional rodeo event on the national APRA circuit.
The local rodeo association has held an annual amateur rodeo later in the year “to give the local blokes a bit more of a go”, Bichsel said, but the return of top notch horse sports and rough stock action has the wider Longreach community abuzz with excitement.
“Rodeos are always well supported around Longreach and normally we get a very good crowd,” he said.
“The town’s only got a smaller population but with our rodeos we seem to drag them in from a few other towns. And this one, from what I can gather, is going to be very popular.
“People are coming from a long, long way away.”
WATCH: Country Caller coverage of the 2021 Mount Isa Rodeo
Among the top Australian rodeo riders who’ll be part of the action next month at Longreach is reigning Mount Isa Rodeo open bull ride winner Troy Wilkinson.
“It took me nearly 10 years to get my first win at Mount Isa. It’s the biggest rodeo in the southern hemisphere and such a prestigious rodeo event,” Wilkinson said.
“If you compete in rodeo, you want to win at Mount Isa. Anything that adds excitement to the challenge of winning Mount Isa is a good thing.
“It think the Road to Rodeo event series is a fantastic idea. It creates opportunities and pathways for us competitors, and I can’t wait to see how it grows.”
Road to Rodeo is tipped to provide a strong financial boost for Longreach and surrounds.
As well as the local rodeo arena undergoing upgrades in the lead-up to the event, Mick Bichsel (pictured) said the economic impact would be enjoyed by traders throughout the whole region.
“This weekend we’ll be modernising the calf roping and team roping chutes which haven’t been used here for probably 15 years,” he said.
“Before the event we’ll have some dirt taken out of the arena and more sand out down to make it a better surface
“It’s all starting to come together.
“It will be a massive economic boost for the town because the people who come here have all got to buy fuel and food et cetera.
“There’ll be people staying overnight in accommodation and it will be a massive boost, not only for Longreach but all those towns along the way where people travel from.”