ROCK SPRINGS — The National High School Finals Rodeo will leave the area soon and it won’t be back until 2024, but its impact will be felt for awhile.

Contestants and their families said they enjoyed their time in Sweetwater County and at the Sweetwater Events Complex during rodeo week.

“Everybody is very friendly,” said parent Nicki Traul from Fort Scott, Kansas.

Her daughter, Jaci Traul, is competing in goat tying, pole bending and breakaway roping.


The National High School Finals Rodeo first came to Sweetwater County in 2012. The economic impact from the event that year was $7.53 million. Numbers from hosting nationals have steadily increased since then to $7.64 million in 2013, $7.76 million in 2014, $7.88 million in 2015 and $8.36 million in 2018. Gillette hosted nationals in 2016 and 2017.

For 2019, the estimated economic impact is about $8.49 million. There are more than 500 volunteers along with 1,940 horses, and 1,590 contestants. Many of the numbers are record-breaking figures, according to the Sweetwater Events Complex.

For Debbie Haug, the 2019 rodeo marked her first trip to Sweetwater County. She arrived with her husband from Iowa to watch their son Jackson Haug compete in calf roping at his first nationals.

She said they enjoyed visiting the area and have even gone river rafting down by Split Mountain in Utah.

For others, nationals marked an opportunity to come back for a Rock Springs treat.

Melissa McTygue told her daughter Madison Mills, who is competing in pole bending for the second year in a row, “We have to make it back to nationals so we can have Cowboy Donuts.”

Sweetwater County Commission Chairman Wally Johnson said at Monday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony to kick off the event that the rodeo is important to the county especially in regards to its impact on local businesses.

“We’re Sweetwater County,” he said. “We need to support the facility.”


Contestants and their families said they liked being at the Events Complex.

Debbie Haug said she “really enjoyed the set up of it.”

In order to expand and allow for the event to take place in the community, the complex did a lot of work. Most recently, in 2018, it put up 784 horse stalls after it received a grant from the Wyoming State Loan and Investment Board. To prepare for the 2012 rodeo, the Events Complex added three arenas as well as built more horse stalls and campsites, which it was able to do thanks to Wyoming Business Council funds.

To host this event, the complex needs to put up at least 1,900 horse stalls and 1,300 campsites.

Matt McTygue said the complex has done a “top-notch job.”

“The scale of it, it’s pretty impressive,” he said.

Jace Logan, who will be attending the University of Wyoming to continue his rodeo career under coach Beau Clark, has competed in the NHSFR for four years, the latter two in Rock Springs where he is competing in steer wrestling, team roping and tie-down roping.

Logan said the Sweetwater Events Complex is a great facility that holds many people. With the trade show and other things, it offers contestants and guests many things to do, and allows them to create many memories and friendships.

Most importantly, the event allows contestants and their families to spend time with loved ones.

Debbie Haug noted, “We get to be our kids’ coaches and we get to spend lot of hours behind the windshield together.”

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