HELENA — There’s a lot of work that goes into getting the rodeo arena set and prepped for competition at the Last Chance Stampede.
With a concert in the arena on Wednesday night ahead of three straight days of rodeo and temperatures in the 90-degree range for a good portion of each day, Last Chance Stampede rodeo committee chair Mike Gurnett says getting, and keeping, the arena ready is all about the preparation beforehand.
"It really is an amazing transformation. When you have a sound stage and you have semis in here and you have people at the concert," said Gurnett on Thursday ahead of the first night of the rodeo. "And to think in less than 24 hours, we're going to be running a rodeo in here. Part of the way that happens is we do a lot of pre-work before the concert."
For hours, groundskeepers run tractors with attachments that help break up the dirt and sand mixture and water it to make sure it softens up enough for the competitors and livestock. Gurnett noted it takes a good bit of time before and during the rodeo to make sure the ground is the right consistency. So much so he loses track of the time.
“I lose complete track of time on everything while the rodeo is going on, but I would say that it's three hours a day. [Thursday is] going to be a possibly a nine-hour job," said Gurnett. "When we get it stable, and we get the moisture content right, then just staying with that.”
With water restrictions in place in Helena and countless gallons being used to soften the dirt, it brings the question: are the fairgrounds complying with the regulations in place?
The answer is yes. Gurnett noted the water they’re using is coming from a well on the fairgrounds property and not city water.
“All of the water comes right here off to the well on the ground. So we're not tapping into the city water," said Gurnett. "Like everybody, I'm sensitive to that. I know at home when I turn the faucet on, it's not a lot of water pressure. And so this is not coming out of a fire hydrant. This is coming out of a well.”
Night two of the Last Chance Stampede and "Tough Enough to Wear Pink" night kicks off on Friday at 7:30 p.m.