Dillon rolls out the red carpet for Labor Day

Things get wild at the Dillon Jaycee Labor Day Rodeo with the Reg Kesler Memorial WIld Horse Race opening the show each day. J.P. Plutt photo


Montana’s Biggest Little Weekend provides a traditional fair and rodeo weekend to signal the end of summer and a transition from shorts and t-shirts into long pants and jackets. Before that shift occurs, time stops for the three-day weekend, and citizens enjoy the western-style festival.

Beaverhead County Fair

Entries begin rolling in Wednesday, all with hopes of grand championship results. The fair gates open officially Thursday morning at 8 a.m. and close Sunday afternoon. Prize flowers and baked goods, fruits and leather projects and all other such entries will meet the critical stare of a judge’s eye.

At the livestock pens hogs, steers, and sheep, along with rabbits, roosters and farm animals of all sorts, will be shown by young 4-H kids in the traditional uniform of a white shirt, dark pants and tie.


Paradise Amusements Carnival Company enters their first year as Dillon’s Labor Day carnival. The professionally run show opens Thursday and runs through Sunday. 


The Dillon Jaycees will stage the 57th edition of their PRCA rodeo. The highlight of Montana’s Biggest Weekend, the show matches top stock from Wade Sankey against some of the best cowboys in the world. Each performance opens with a non-traditional PRCA event, the Reg Kesler Memorial Wild Horse Race. Action is nonstop through the bull riding finale.

“Excitement, entertainment and everything we can offer,” Said Jack Bergeson, Dillon Jaycee Rodeo Chairman, on what guests can expect when they arrive at Harry Andrus Arena at Beaverhead Fairgrounds for the Jaycee rodeo.  “We’ve got a unique situation with the wild horse race and the wild cow milking.  We’re pretty proud of our rodeo.”

Bergeson spoke of the two non-PRCA events special to the Jaycee rodeo filled with a roster of local contestants.

“This year Wade Sankey has taken over for his dad so we will be getting Wade’s best and Ike’s best stock,” said Bergeson of the explosive bucking stock that will be busting out of the chutes.  “We’ll have a lot of the big name cowboys that are right on the cusp (of qualifying for the National Finals Rodeo).  That’s nice about our schedule is if you’re not in (NFR), there’s a lot of money to be won here.”

The PRCA season now ends Sept. 30.  At one time the season extended into November.  So cowboys on the bubble of the top 15 in the world hit as many rodeos as they can at the end of the season, which brings many of the world’s best hands to Dillon.

In a effort to boost the added prize money, the Jaycees have added an enclosed VIP skybox seating area behind the bucking chutes.  The Gold Buckle Club seats go for $2,000 with a companion pass costing $500 for two.  The renewable membership in the Gold Buckle Club will limit the availability of the special seating to the first 25 or so supporters who get on board.

“It is our new fundraising effort,” said Dillon Jaycee President Jed Fitch.  “We’re trying to improve the rodeo by eventually increasing the added money to draw better cowboys.”

The Dillon Jaycee Auxiliary, a 12-member group, helps the Jaycees through the weekend.  They chair the parade and help at the rodeo.

“We do the concessions at the Jaycee Building,” said Jaycee Auxiliary President SueAnn Bergeson.  “We hope everyhbody has a great time and we just want to promote the great sport of rodeo.”

Saturday’s rodeo begins at 7:30 p.m., while the wild horses buck out of the chutes at 2 p.m. to kickoff the Sunday performance. Slack is set to start at 7:30 a.m. Sunday.  From Wednesday on, tickets will be available at the Jaycee Building (683-5771) at the fairgrounds.


The Dillon Jaycee concert features country western talent, with Montana-based Ten foot Tall and 80 Proof opening for country superstar Clay Walker.  The one show, two-act performance is staged at the rodeo arena and begins Sunday evening at 8 p.m. For ticket information, call 683-5771.   Tickets will be on sale right up to show time.

“As soon as the last bull is bucked (Sunday) we start tearing down and get ready for the concert,” said Bergeson, who is doubling as the concert chairman.  “I’ve been to quite a few concerts and Dillon is really nice because you can get right up next to the stage.  It is friendly and a good family show and if you want to sit there’s plenty of seating.”

 Fire Department Labor Day Breakfast

The Dillon Volunteer Fire Department will hold their annual breakfast Monday morning at the Fire Hall from 7 a.m. to noon. Whether you’re just heading home or off to the parade, stop by and support this worthwhile organization. The menu includes pancakes, eggs, sausage, milk, juice and coffee. Kids five and under eat for free.


The weekend slows down Monday with the deliberate pace of the Jaycee Labor Day parade starting at 10 a.m. The parade, with the theme “Through the Eyes of a  Child,” harkens back to days of old, with floats and horseback riders, novelty acts and candy for the kids. 

“The special thing this year is the theme, we should get some good entries with child-like characteristics,” said Jaycee Auxiliary Parade Chairperson Stephanie Vinson. 

To be eligible for a prize, you must pre-register.  Registration is available the day of the parade and according to Vinson, a lot of people just show up and get in the parade.

“It is the same route as always and people line-up all throughout town,” said Vinson.  “It is a really fun, family event.”

 For more parade information, contact Stephanie Vinson at (406) 490-6247.

Night life

For the young and young at heart, Dillon’s night life reaches a peak during Labor Day Weekend. Music, dancing and meeting old and new friends highlight the social activity in downtown Dillon. Friday night in front of the Elks Lodge there will be a street dance, and Saturday in front of the Beaverhead County Museum on Montana Street the finals of the Boots Country Karaoke Contest will start at 11 p.m.