Media Contact:
Ruth Nicolaus

For the Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo, hosted by the Minot Y’s Men’s Rodeo

Minot rodeo ensures safe ground conditions for horses, bulls at Y’s Men’s Rodeo

Minot, N.D. (September 9, 2019) – It’s an invisible part of the Y’s Men’s Rodeo, but without it, the rodeo couldn’t go on.

It’s the dirt that is moved into the State Fair Center, and it has to be just right for the horses and bulls.

The word “dirt” is a misnomer; it’s a combination of clay and sand, said Dustin Keller, one of the employees at Keller Paving and Landscaping in Minot. While it is called “rodeo dirt,” it is unlike the black dirt that might be found in a yard or garden. It is free of organic matter.

“Topsoil, when it gets wet, gets muddy and sticky,” Keller said. Pure clay would pack and get hard, so the sand is added. “The sand helps keep it from clumping together and packing.”

For the past four years, Keller Paving and Landscaping has been hired to bring in the dirt for the Y’s Men’s Rodeo, which is October 4-6 this year. It takes 1,000 tons of clay in 75 loads, and a ten to twelve hour day to bring the dirt into the arena. Four to five dump trucks, plus a loader to load the dirt at the stockpile, which is off-site, plus a loader to spread the dirt around at the arena, are kept busy. “We start at about 7 am and we’re done by 5 pm or so,” Keller said.

The dirt is brought in on the Wednesday before the rodeo. After the rodeo, which ends on Sunday, October 6, Keller’s takes it out. If the State Fair Center is booked for another event, the dirt has to come out immediately, and it takes twelve to fourteen hours to get it out.

Taking it out is more time consuming than bringing it in, Keller said. They bring in a loader, scrape it off the concrete, and into a pile. When it gets down to the end, they use a skid steer, hand shovels and brooms to clean around corners and in tight areas.

Good ground conditions are crucial for the safety of the horses and bulls, said Nikki Steffes Hansen, the number two barrel racer in the Dakotas who hails from Dickinson, N.D.

Hansen should know. Because of poor ground conditions at a rodeo in 2014, her good barrel horse, Sky, sustained an injury to his deep flexor tendon on his right front leg, causing him to be out of competition for two years.

“Really, good ground is the most essential thing,” she said. “Our horses run so hard and make three turns, and if the ground’s not safe, it’s really quite dangerous for us and our horses. Good ground is important for all horses, but especially those who qualify for the (Badlands) Circuit Finals, because they are so valuable.”

Hansen, who has competed at every circuit finals since 2010, except for 2014-2015, when her horse was injured, gave credit to the Minot Y’s Men’s committee. The committee allows for practice time for the barrel racers, to give them time to assess ground conditions and adjust the dirt, if necessary. “The committee cares as much as we do,” she said. “The Minot committee is awesome.”

Dirt for the rodeo is spread in the arena and in an area outside the south side of the building for pens for horses and bulls. The dirt is used by the State Fair Center for other events and is owned by the fairgrounds.

The Minot Y’s Men’s Rodeo will be held at the State Fair Center October 4-6, with 7 pm performances on October 4-5 and matinees on October 5-6.Tickets are available online at and range in price from $13-$33.

Tickets for the Sat., October 5 matinee, which starts at 1 pm, are discounted. For more information, visit the website.

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A photo from 2017 shows a loader spreading clay around the State Fair Center, in preparation for the Minot Y’s Men’s Rodeo. About 1,000 tons of rodeo dirt are brought in, to make sure arena conditions are safe for horses and bulls.

Rodeo dirt is spread around the arena for the 2017 Minot Y’s Men’s Rodeo. It takes ten to twelve hours to bring in the dirt, which is a combination of sand and clay.

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