For two consecutive Thursdays and Fridays—July 21 and 22 and July 28 and 29—cowboys and cowgirls will show off their skills at the Guts & Glory Rodeo outside Gardiner, Montana. Participants will ride bucking broncs, survive eight seconds atop agitated bulls, and display finely honed roping skills at the recently completed Jardine Land and Livestock Arena, located at 40 Crevice Road in Jardine, Montana, a scenic 20-minute drive northeast of Gardiner. Calf roping, barrel racing, breakaway roping, and even a calf scramble for the youngest cowboys and cowgirls will round out the events.
Gardiner, with elk and other wildlife frequently roaming the streets, is known to be Nature’s Favorite Entrance to Yellowstone National Park™. However, cowboy culture here also runs deep. Hell’s A-Roarin’ Outfitters is sponsoring the rodeo, and their massive downtown horse drives and world-class hunting expeditions have been part of the Gardiner-area landscape for nearly half a century. Susan Johnson, who runs the company with her husband Warren and the couple’s children, couldn’t be more excited. “We’ll be serving burgers and hot dogs,” she says, “and the Ringling Bar will be bringing their bar trailer and will be serving beer, wine, and the most delicious margaritas!”
Guts & Glory is a rodeo series sanctioned by the National Rodeo Association and will feature all events. Jacob’s Livestock is contracting the bulls, broncs, and other livestock. The rodeo is open to the public, begins at 6 pm, is straightforward to find, and has plenty of parking. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for children and available at the gate. So dust off your hats and boots (or purchase some in Gardiner as a souvenir) and enjoy some authentic Montana grit and excitement!
Make a Weekend Out of It
While you visit Gardiner for Guts & Glory consider making it a weekend adventure stretching into Saturday and Sunday. Outdoor activities abound including horseback riding, rafting, hiking, and ziplining. All this makes for a fun family experience. With lodging, restaurants, and gift shops open for business in Gardiner you can enjoy a visit while helping the town rebound from floods that have temporarily cut off the North Entrance Road into Yellowstone. As of this blog posting the North Entrance Road currently remains closed to the visiting public in private vehicles. However, you may be able to access the park with an authorized private tour company. Thankfully, “Cowboy Country” extends well beyond Yellowstone’s borders, and there are lots of opportunities to explore the surrounding area.
Ride Your Own Horse
Feeling inspired by the talented men and women riding horseback at the rodeo? Consider trying riding horseback yourself by booking a half- or full-day ride with a local company. Specimen Creek Outfitters & Adventures, also located outside Gardiner in Jardine, offers an hour to a full day of horseback riding through wildflower-laden forests on the outskirts of Yellowstone. While the park encompasses 2.2 million acres, the surrounding national forests, including the Custer-Gallatin National Forest and Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, dwarf this acreage in comparison. In addition to day trips Specimen Creek Outfitter owner Ralf Johnson also offers overnight wilderness outings—he operates two wilderness camps with comfortable cook and sleeping tents—and is offering a women’s wilderness writing retreat the first few days in August. Visit the company’s website for full details.
Whitewater and a Cowboy Cookout Ὰ La Carte
For those looking for a different type of ride Paradise Adventure Company, Flying Pig Adventure Company, and Yellowstone Raft Company all offer “Saddle-Paddle” packages in conjunction with Hell’s A-Roarin’ where you can ride bucking whitewater for half a day paired with a half a day of guided exploration on horseback. A “Float and Ride” package with a whitewater-free scenic float (ages 6 and up) offers fun for those looking for a more mellow experience, says Paradise Adventure Company owner/operator Sarah Ondrus. End your day with a true cowboy cookout at the Hell’s A-Roarin’ property at 164 Crevice Road, an approximately half-hour drive from Gardiner. The menu includes steaks, potatoes, salads, cornbread, and dessert (with vegetarian options available). Watch a fiery Montana sunset at the conclusion of the meal while the kids roast marshmallows over a crackling campfire. Visit Paradise Adventure Company and Flying Pig Adventure Company online for rates and additional details.
Outfit Yourself Like a Local
With gift stores, galleries, food carts and restaurants open for business in Gardiner—particularly on Park and Main streets—it’s worth your time to stroll around downtown to find souvenirs to take home from your Montana adventure at one of the town’s many gift shops. Kellem’s Montana Saddlery has everything you need to look the part for rodeo weekend including western wear like silk scarves, cowboy hats, bolo ties, and lots of western-themed jewelry. The shop has been operated by generations of the Kellem family over the years making crafted customized saddles, chaps and chinks, as well as intricate bags, belts and journals. Most of the leatherwork now is being done by daughter Callie Kellem. Carol Kellem, who owns and operates the store with her husband Les, says they’ll be selling hats and belts at a 20 percent discount over both rodeo weekends. “I just mix around my sales,” Carol says, adding, “I always have a sale going on this summer.” The Frontier Mercantile located in the Yellowstone Outpost Mall on the northern edge of Gardiner also offers a taste of the Old West with western artwork, sculptures, jewelry photographs, and “Made-in-Montana” products.
Chelsea DeWeese writes from her hometown of Gardiner, Montana, the North Entrance to Yellowstone National Park.