The Salt River Aal-Tash Fun Day Rodeo was held on March 31 at Ropers Arena, off the Loop 101 Freeway and McDowell Road. Many Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community members and other Native Americans participated in this year’s rodeo to compete in events such as barrel racing, pole bending, flag racing, team roping, steer racing and more.
The day started out with the events for the youngest children, up to 5 years old, who participated in the broomstick barrels and dummy roping. Cooper Yazzie won first place in the broomstick barrels. Coltin Co’Nei’Sen’Ney won first place in the dummy roping, with two catches.
By mid-afternoon it was time for the youth ages 6-17 to compete in their events: breakaway roping, team roping, barrel racing, flag racing and pole bending. Arena Ben’s time of 11.84 seconds won first place in flag racing for ages 6-9. In the same age category, Jayden Lopez took first place in team roping. With a time of 14.05 seconds, Brandon Ben took first place in team roping for ages 10-14. The first-place winner in team roping for ages 15-17 went to Trevor Waters.
For the girls, Fallon Dakota took first place in breakaway roping for ages 10-14. Amy Philips won for the 15-17 group. In barrel racing for ages 10-14, Courtney Jensen beat out her competition with 17.96 seconds. Angelique Schurz’s time of 18.77 seconds placed her first in barrel racing for ages 15-17. Schurz also took first place in flag racing and pole bending for the same age group. For ages 6-9, Savannah Joe won the pole bending event with a time of 27.10 seconds and also took first place in barrel racing. Rawlinda Ben’s time of 9.86 seconds made her the winner in flag racing for ages 10-14. She also won first place in her age category in the pole bending competition.
More than 30 youth between the ages of 4 and 17 participated in woolly riding and steer riding. Malana Garcia took first place in woolly riding for ages 6-9; she held on for 2.19 seconds. Madden Kisto won first place in the 0-5 category in woolly riding, beating his competition by holding on to the calf for 51 seconds. Kaya Hayes won first place in steer riding for ages 10-14. Richard Marez’s score of 54 placed him first in the 15-17 age group in steer riding.
A men’s calf dressing took place following the woolly and steer-riding events. Six teams went head-to-head to take home prize money and a trophy. The men raced across the arena to catch a calf and dress it with a very large pair of men’s tighty whities. The winning team members were Stetson Mendoza, Tony Andrews and Cecil Villalpando. Three women’s teams competed in calf dressing; the winners were Amy Phillips, Deborah B. and R. Little.
Following the calf dressing, there was a barbecue dinner in honor of the late Emmett King. The Salt River Rodeo Committee recognized King and all his passion, hard work and dedication to the committee and the Salt River Aal-Tash Fun Day Rodeo.
After the meal, the adults competed in barrel racing and breakaway roping. Chris Roanhorse took first place in barrel racing with a time of 18.68 seconds, Tia Bruised Head followed at 18.92 seconds, and Yolanda Nez placed third with 19.20 seconds. In adult breakaway roping, Bobbie Riggs won first place with a time of 3.97 seconds, Aaron T. came in second with 4.50 seconds, and Steve Wood came in third with 9.40 seconds.
After the scheduled competitions were completed, the rodeo organizers opened up the arena to other challenges for those who wanted to participate. Many adults took turns roping until around 10 p.m., having fun competing against each other and having a good time.