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Idaho’s oldest rodeo kicks off Wednesday night with free event

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IDAHO FALLS — It’s time to saddle up and put on your cowboy boots to watch bucking bulls and horses. Idaho Falls is celebrating a popular and historic rodeo that kicks off with a free event Wednesday night.

The War Bonnet Round Up is in its 111th year and is known as the oldest rodeo in Idaho. More than 450 cowboys and cowgirls compete each summer in front of more than 15,000 rodeo spectators during the first weekend of August.

The War Bonnet Round Up will host the annual rodeo kickoff at Sandy Downs from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. The event will include games and free rodeo action. 

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The War Bonnet Round Up banner. | Andrea Olson, EastIdahoNews.com

“Last year was the first year we moved the kickoff to Sandy Downs, which was a huge success,” said Idaho Falls Parks and Recreation Director PJ Holm in a news release. “We love our rodeo fans and having this event is just a great way to kick off the fun and build the excitement for what is arguably the best rodeo in eastern Idaho.”

There will be food vendors, pony rides, mini bucking bulls, bounce houses and more at Wednesday’s event.

The main rodeo events will begin on Thursday and run through Saturday. Gates will open each night at 4:30 p.m.

“I travel all over the country and this is one of the best rodeos I go to. Fans love it. It’s a great show … we just love coming here,” said Troy Heinert, a pickup man at the War Bonnet Round Up.

Heinert’s job involves getting the riders off of a bucking horse and making sure he escorts the animal out of the arena safely. He’s been doing it for about 12 years and used to ride bucking horses.

He has traveled to a lot of different rodeos across the country and makes sure the animals are taken care of.

“We’ll have about 100 animals here for this week at this rodeo. You have to watch and make sure there are no injuries and that they are healthy,” he explained. “In the morning, we make sure their water is full all day and hay in the evenings and making sure they are in the right pen where they are supposed to be. We do all of that before we feed ourselves.”

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Some of the bulls at Sandy Downs. | Andrea Olson, EastIdahoNews.com

“There will be some horses here that only have one trip. They will arrive at Idaho Falls and they’ll perform one time and then they get to stand in the back with their friends and get good hay and grain,” he said.

Heinert is looking forward to the rodeo.

“I think my favorite part is right before we crack the gate on the very first horse. That’s where I am most excited,” he said.

Tickets for Thursday and Friday are $20 and Saturday is $25. Military and veteran discounts are available. Children’s tickets for ages three to 10 are $10. Children two and under are free.

Tickets are available online and at local War Bonnet Round Up ticket outlets, including Teton Toyota, Vickers, Cal Ranch, Boot Barn and the Idaho Falls Recreation Center. Click here for more ticket information.

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