Rodeo has always been king in north central Montana. Prior to 1952, however, the king’s subjects lacked order. A group of cowboys from Roy gathered individuals from across the region with the intent of forming a rodeo association, to standardize rules and prevent date conflicts between communities. It is said that an argument broke out over what the committee should call themselves, and a representative from Winifred spoke up saying, “Well, if you can’t decide on a good name, let’s at least have a descriptive name!”
With that, the North Central Montana Rodeo Association was born. For years, NCMRA experienced ups and downs. It fell apart entirely in 1957, only to resurrected in 1959. By 1969, the organization was in hot water again, finishing out the year $281.00 in the red.
Then in 1970, rodeo experienced a revolutionary shift. It was around this time that the “new breed” of rodeo cowboy began to emerge. These were educated men, men that had risen through the ranks of high school and college, men that saw rodeo not as simply a sport, but as a business. Through their leadership, the NCMRA developed into a more professional organization.
In 1972, a more-fitting name was selected for the group (which had far surpassed the boundaries of north central Montana): Northern Rodeo Association. The NRA’s headquarters first resided in Lewistown and eventually relocated to its current location in Billings.
The inaugural NRA Finals took place in the fall of 1973. Since then, NRA members—which include ranchers, doctors, businessmen and women, and people from all walks of life— have worked together to put on this spectacular rodeo event which attracts thousands of spectators each year.