Gates named ‘Cowboy Great’

Posted October 22, 2013 at 6:13 pm

Gates to be honored at Casey Tibbs Foundation Tribute Dinner

Casey Gates.jpg

CASEY GATES, as an SDSU student, concentrated on staying on the bull in 1991 at the College National Finals Rodeo. He placed second in the nation that year, and had placed first in 1990.

Miller’s Casey Gates is one of six to be honored Saturday, Nov. 2 at the annual Casey Tibbs Foundation Tribute Dinner. He will be recognized as this year’s Rodeo Cowboy Great.

Casey Gates figures he was riding some type of an animal over a span of 32 years. He started with calves and steers when he was six-years-old, when the family lived near Aberdeen. His dad and an uncle started him on the road to rodeo.

He progressed to 4-H rodeos, where he rode bulls and bareback. In high school rodeos, Gates says he participated in every event except cutting.

Rodeo scholarships helped him with college expenses, and he started with pro-rodeo during his college years.

“I mainly participated in the Badlands Circuit rodeos, and earned five trips to the Dodge National Circuit Finals. I started in PBR (Professional Bull Riders) in 1993, and participated in both that and the Badlands Circuit until 1998. From then on, I just competed in PBR events.”

In 1990 he was College National Finals Rodeo (the “Rose Bowl” of college rodeo) champ in bull riding.

Gates was the only South Dakotan to qualify twice in the PBR finals, the “Super Bowl of Bull Riding.”

He holds 78 total records.

Gates moved to Miller in 1995, after his professional career took off, and joined the family business, Miller Feed Service.

He says the rodeo circuit takes dedication, as well as money, to keep competing.

“I’ve rodeo’ed in all 48 (contiguous) states, as well as Brazil, Mexico and Canada,” Gates said, with a touch of pride. “I can go to just about every state and find someone I know.”

As the years rolled by, Gates decided to retire in 2003, after an injury. “But I was talked back into one more year,” he relates. “In 2005, I officially retired after a rodeo in Effie, Minnesota. I got a check and a saddle and figured it was time to be done.”

Nowadays, Gates is occupied managing the Miller Feed Service, and he conducts bull-riding schools for Korkow Rodeos, Pierre.

And even though Gates is done with bull riding, another rodeo generation is coming up. Son Trey, 17, competes in saddle bronc and team roping. Daughter Tyra, nine, has begun winning ribbons in barrels, poles, goat tying and breakaway. Ellie, six, is already getting her feet wet in youth rodeo competitions. Mom Sara was also a rodeo competitor.

“I figure by the time my kids are done competing, grandkids will be coming up,” Gates noted. He has a lot more rodeos to attend.

As for the upcoming Tribute Dinner, Gates remarked, “It’s quite an honor to have people years later remember what you did, and what you had fun doing. I really am honored.”

In 1990, following the death of Casey Tibbs, the Casey Tibbs Foundation hosted the first Tribute Dinner. It is held on an annual basis to honor people in the South Dakota rodeo community and to celebrate their accomplishments.

Those honored are nominated, and selected by the board of directors. The Tribute Dinner will be held at the Casey Tibbs SD Rodeo Center in Fort Pierre.

In addition to Gates, the other honorees are:

• Jessica Painter Holmes, Buffalo, as “Rodeo Cowgirl Great.” She has won state, regional and national awards at every level of rodeo competition (high school, college, amateur and professional).

• Harold Heinert, Parmelee, as “Past Rodeo Great.” He competed in the college-level finals in the SDRA, PRCA, GPIRA and INFR. He excelled in bareback riding until his life was tragically cut short by cancer at 35.

• Harold Delbridge, Red Owl, as “Rodeo Promoter,” who as a pastor has touched countless lives. He was the “voice of rodeo” as announcer at high school, 4-H and SDRA.

• Walter and Marian Klein Ranch, Hartford, as “Ranch Cowboy Family.” The fifth-generation original farm and ranch land has been in the family for nearly 125 years.

• Sutton Rodeo’s Chuckulator, Onida, as “Rodeo Animal Athlete” was the first horse to win both bareback and saddle bronc Badlands Circuit Finals awards in the same year (2001). He was voted the top bronc in 2012 by the National Finals Rodeo.

The honorees’ photos and biographies will be added to the “Wall of Fame,” located in the Rodeo Center.