Bucking Horse Sale kicks off tonight

The 67th Annual World Famous Bucking Horse Sale in Miles City is many things.

For retailers, it’s Christmas in May. For nonprofit organizations, it’s a chance to make a buck. For volunteers, it’s an opportunity to step up and be counted. And for all involved, it’s three solid days of fun kicked off by a Thursday night concert.

Without a doubt, said John Laney, executive director of the Miles City Area Chamber of Commerce, the Bucking Horse Sale is Miles City’s signature event.

“It’s certainly what we’re known for,” he said. Last year, the Sale attracted visitors from two foreign nations and 24 states.

The Bucking Horse Sale started out simply as a way to sell horses, allowing them to first exhibit their orneriness in the arena.

And that’s still a big part of things, but certainly not the only thing. Laney said the Bucking Horse Sale has something for everybody.

Now there’s also bucking bulls, and horse races, a parade and a pageant, concerts; breakfast, a brunch and barbecues, a trade and vendor show,  etc., etc.

“So many different facets have evolved,” Laney said.

The event starts slowly — country and pop artist Phil Vassar performs tonight at the Eastern Montana Fairgrounds. Opening act Carl Dixon takes the stage at 7 p.m.

Then things happen fast. See a full schedule of events on page 21.

While all of Miles City is apt to turn out at some point over the weekend, when the weekend is over, it’s the thousands of visitors who leave their money behind.

The event, Miles City’s largest, makes cash registers fly open.

The Chamber estimates the economic impact of the weekend at about $3.3 million.

“It’s a second Christmas for the retailers,” said John Laney, Miles City Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director. “But it also gives nonprofits a chance to boost their budget.”

The actual numbers of the economic impact are difficult to calculate. But, with the help of an intern from Kristy Atwood’s business class at Miles Community College and from the State of Montana Tourism research group, the chamber was able to nail down some numbers.

According to Laney, the 2016 Sale brought in 4,086 visitors from outside the area who averaged a three-day overnight stay, said Laney. 

Using figures that show the average out-of-state visitor to Montana spends spends $217 per day, the Chamber did the math and it added up to $2,659,986 in new money pumped into the community. The other attendees brought in an estimated $647,565.  That would put the total impact of the weekend at $3,307,551.

“The reason for all of this is to show what an event of this magnitude does for our community and for our surrounding communities,” Laney said.

Bernice Nelson of the Olive Hotel can attest to the power of the Bucking Horse Sale. The hotel has 23 rooms for the Bucking Horse Sale which people began booking last June. 

“It’s always a big deal for us because people want to stay downtown,” Nelson said in a phone interview. “It’s a great thing for us financially.”

According to Nelson, people used to say that the money from Bucking Horse Sale weekend would support the business for the rest of the year. Now, she said, that’s no longer the case, but the weekend is still very helpful. 

The weather, however, could put a damper on the event, like it did in 2011, but prolonged downpours are required.

A little rain, Laney said, has come to be expected, and most folks weather it with a smile.

“It’s good for the farmers and ranchers,” Laney said.