By: Kristian Limas
April 05, 2017
PUEBLO, Colo. – Over the course of the Built Ford Tough Series season, it’s not unusual to cross a full spectrum while traveling through the country.
When the 2017 season kicked off in New York’s Madison Square Garden, the PBR’s production crew had to snake through busy Manhattan streets in a city that crams over 10,000 people per square mile.
But when the PBR arrives in places like Montana (7.1 people per square mile) and South Dakota (11.3 people per square mile), the crowds can easily rival that of New York, Chicago or Las Vegas. In fact, it can almost feel as if the entire state decided to show up.
For PBR exclusive entertainer, Flint Rasmussen, these are the stops on the BFTS’ schedule that he looks forward to every year. Entertaining crowds like these are opportunities that, like the towns that dot the Montana country side, are few and far between.
“The first thing I do wherever we fly in is look for a presence,” Rasmussen said. “Are we a presence in the city and the community? A place like a Sioux Falls or a Billings almost has a more small-town kind of feel to it.”
Billings has always been among the best BFTS events when it comes to attendance and general enthusiasm since the tour made its first stop there in 1996. The BFTS made its debut in Sioux Falls in 2015, and the ensuing demand for tickets led the PBR to extend the event to three days in 2016 and 2017.
Though they may not have the higher stakes of a PBR Major, or take place in some of the biggest cities in the country, events like ones in Montana and South Dakota are unique on the tour schedule because they still feel like some of the biggest events of the year.
The settings are a little more intimate. The crowds are a little bit louder.
Much like a Texas town in the fall during football season, when the PBR comes to town, it’s the place to be.
“When we pull into Billings, it’s everywhere,” Rasmussen said. “I always get a feel for what to expect from the community we’re in by our presence. It makes an energy as an entertainer and as a performer and it gets me excited to do my job.”
What many fans don’t seem to realize is that when the PBR comes to town, it’s not contained to the city limits.
“The great thing about Billings is that people drive,” Rasmussen said. “They drive seven, eight hours to go to the Billings PBR.”
Rasmussen’s hometown of Choteau, Montana, is about five hours away from Billings, but it’s not unusual to hear local radio stations advertising the upcoming BFTS event. When the PBR comes to this part of the country, it is usually one of the biggest events in the state.
That’s no surprise for Rasmussen, who got his start in small-town rodeos that took over the town.
“Back when my career first started, in Choteau, Montana, the one-day Fourth of July Rodeo there, there were people on the streets and it just encompassed the whole community,” Rasmussen said. “They kind of take over the town, like you’re just waiting for a street dance to breakout.”
That small-town feel also has special meaning as the PBR continues its Celebrate America tour. The region, which has long been a hotbed for Western sports, represents a special tenant of the cowboy spirit that the PBR has brought to the forefront this season.
“It just really gets the cowboy way,” Rasmussen said. “We’re showing that to the cities, when we go New York, Chicago, and Anaheim and Sacramento they really get into it.
“People in the smaller markets, say, ‘yeah, that’s how cowboys do it.’ It’s not as unique as it is just a celebration that fits in to what they do in their everyday lives.”
That brings out the best in Rasmussen, who has spent over 30 years in Western sports and has been with the PBR since 2003. After such an extensive career, he still gets a renewed sense of energy whenever he finds his way back to Big Sky Country.
“When I go to the Dakotas, or Montana, or even the Midwest, sometimes I always joke that it’s my kind of people,” Rasmussen said. “I can be myself a little more. There’s a relaxed feeling of ‘Hey, this is me, take me for what I am,’ and those people relate to it because we all grew up in the same way.
“It is a little like being at home.”
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