‘Everyone enjoys a rodeo’

Long before and well after the roping and riding begins each year at the Great Northern Classic Rodeo in Superior, a crew of volunteers swarms to action.

Fred Johnson, of Finlayson, Minn., finds himself in a tough spot as he competes in the bareback competition at the Great Northern Classic Rodeo in Superior on Sunday afternoon. (Jed Carlson/

Long before and well after the roping and riding begins each year at the Great Northern Classic Rodeo in Superior, a crew of volunteers swarms to action.

Polly Lohman, volunteer coordinator for the Labor Day weekend event, estimates that about 150 people work behind the scenes to keep the rodeo alive. This weekend marked the 24th anniversary of the event launched in Duluth but moved to Superior.

The Head of the Lakes Fairground on Tower Avenue has been home to the rodeo for 22 years.

The livestock for the rodeo began arriving Thursday, but volunteers had been on the job since Monday, mowing and setting up for the event, Lohman said. The Poplar woman said she first came to the Great Northern Classic Rodeo as a fan but found that she and her family members soon were moved to volunteer.

“We’ve got a lot of families working here, including grandparents and their kids and grandkids,” Lohman said Sunday, with her daughter at her elbow. “This is the culmination of everything we’ve done throughout the year to plan and prepare for this event.”


Jared Ursin, 24, of Hayward has been volunteering at the rodeo since age 5. He was pulled into the fray by an aunt and uncle who were deeply involved in the event.

“I make sure to take time off and come here for it each year,” he said. “I wouldn’t miss it.”

“So many people grow up in the city these days, but this is what our country was all about. You had to know how to work around animals, and rodeo brings that connection back,” Ursin said.

Wayne Lehr, member of the board of directors for the event, said the rodeo wouldn’t be possible without a strong network of volunteers. He pointed out that all proceeds from the event are plowed back into the show and to support local children’s charities.

Lohman said that after more than two decades of shows, she would expect more people in the Twin Ports area to be familiar with the rodeo, but she’s still surprised to run into people who are unaware of it.

Lehr said many people seem to confuse the Superior rodeo with one in Spooner.

“It’s good wholesome entertainment for the whole family. And we don’t have enough of that,” she said.

Sharon Corbin of Dairyland has been coming to the rodeo for years and brought her granddaughter and great grandchildren - ages 1, 3 and 13 - to the event Sunday.


“This is grandma’s treat,” she said. “It’s a good family event. Everyone enjoys a rodeo.”

Before Superior had a rodeo of its own, Corbin said she used to travel to Spooner each year for a taste of the action.

Kathy Speece, who lives just outside of Two Harbors, described herself as a rodeo fan but said Sunday marked the first time she had attended the Great Northern Classic.

She gave it high marks.

“I love everything about it - the horses, the cowboys, the cowgirls and even the smell.”

Peter Passi covers city government for the Duluth News Tribune. He joined the paper in April 2000, initially as a business reporter but has worked a number of beats through the years.
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