The Salt River Aal-Tash Fun Day Rodeo was held on March 30 at Ropers Arena, located off Loop 101 and McDowell Road. Many Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community members and other Native Americans participated in this year’s rodeo, competing in events such as barrel racing, pole bending, flag racing, team roping, steer racing and more. This year there was a special guest: Kassidy Dennison, who encouraged the youth competitors to continue riding and reach their dreams of making a career out of professional rodeo.
The 22-year-old Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) member is from Tohatchi, New Mexico, and is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation.
Dennison is a six-time Indian National Finals Rodeo Champion, with five all-around titles and one barrel-racing title. She was the first Navajo to win a title at the National High School Finals Rodeo, winning for her breakaway roping. Last year, Dennison won Rookie of the Year in the Pioneer Days Rodeo in Guymon, Oklahoma, on the Turquoise Circuit, which included riders from New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. Dennison has been making her way through the pro rodeo circuit trying to earn a spot in the Nationals Finals Rodeo, the premier rodeo event in the country, presented by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
As a Nike N7 Ambassador, Dennison also came out to the rodeo to help encourage youth and young adults to stay fit and eat healthfully to prevent diabetes.
“I was asked by Nike N7 Chairman Sam McCracken to be a part of the N7 Summit last year, and I really got involved with the communities back where I am from to help spread the awareness of diabetes. I thought it would be great for me to talk about that with the youth here in Salt River,” said Dennison. “If you want to be successful, you have to be in shape. I always thought you don’t have to be in shape to be in rodeo, but I wanted to [compete] at a professional level, and to [compete] at that level you have to be in shape.”
During the Aal-Tash rodeo, Dennison signed autographs and talked with the youth after their competitions. The five-year-olds started things off with the broomstick barrels and dummy roping. Cordarrell Henry won first place in the broomstick barrels and R.J. Kinney won first place in the dummy roping, with two catches.
By mid-afternoon it was time for the youth ages six to 17 to compete in their events: breakaway roping, team roping, barrel racing, flag racing and pole bending. Savannah Joe’s time of 12.40 seconds won first place in flag racing in the six- to nine-year-old age group. In the same age category, Jocelyn CoNeiSenNey won first place in pole bending with a time of 25.95 seconds, and Savannah Joe also won barrel racing with a time of 21.09.
With a time of 18.06 seconds, Aron Kenton took first place in team roping for ages 10 to 14. In the same age category, he also won first place in the breakaway, with a time of 4.54. Kennea Kinney won first place in pole bending and barrel racing in the 10-to-14 age division. Shelby Roanhorse took first with a time of 10.11 seconds in flag racing.
In the 15-to-17 category, Angelique Schurz won first place in flag racing, pole bending and barrel racing. Kaya Hayes won both first and second place in team roping.
More than 20 kids ages four to 17 participated in the woolly riding (sheep riding) and steer riding. R.J. Kinney won first place in the youngest age category in woolly riding, and Cordarrell Henry took second. For the six- to nine-year-olds, Chasity Rustin won first place in calf riding. In the 10-to-14 category, Cody Rustin took first in steer riding; Micah Marrietta took first in the 15-to-17 age category in bull riding.
A calf dressing took place following the woolly and steer-riding events; 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 briefs (tighty-whities).
The rodeo ended with the adult competitions in barrel racing and breakaway roping. Tia Bruised Head took first place in barrel racing with a time of 19.14 seconds, and Sylvia Little followed at 19.29 seconds. In adult breakaway roping, Skyler Nosie won first place with a time of 2.15 seconds, Justin “Mutton Man” Rhodes came in second with 3.08 seconds, and Chris Roanhorse came in third with 3.24 seconds.