by | May 1, 2023 | Community, Culture

NDCHF 2023 Season Premiere [Photo: Irene Johnson]

The spring breeze welcomed an annual outdoor tradition as the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame (NDCHF) 2023 Season Premiere went down in style on the evening of April 29, 2023 in historic Medora.

North Dakota junior and senior high school rodeo champions were announced from the past year, and the seven new inductees were revealed. The guest speaker, board members, and guests all graced the stage with smiles and excitement for the upcoming year.

NDHSR champs honored at the premiere. [Photo: submitted]

The North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, with its Center of Western Heritage & Cultures is the interpretive center for the history of the northern plains and North Dakota’s western lifestyle.

The centerpiece of the Center of Western Heritage and Cultures is the Hall of Honorees, paying tribute to the men, women, events and livestock that made extraordinary contributions to North Dakota’s culture, lifestyle and legacy. — North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame.


Guest speaker and World Champion Team Roper, Bobby Harris, highlighted the importance of getting an education and getting that degree, no matter how much rodeo is out there.

Bobby Harris [Photo: Irene Johnson]

Harris entertained the up-and-coming rodeo superstars and fellow audience members with great rodeo stories. He talked about his younger years and the endless amount of winnings he ‘thought would never end’.

The 18x National Finals Rodeo qualifier made his message clear, “Take the time, get the education, you can rodeo your whole life. You may not need that piece of paper (college degree), but you may need it when you’re 40 and you’ll have it.”

State champs (left to right): Trevor Sorge, Bobby Harris (speaker), Cole Gerhardt, and Tel Sorenson all honored at the season premiere. [Photo: submitted]

“Being part of this group, the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, has unexpectedly made my life richer. This is one of my favorite boards I have been on,” said the President of NDCHF Board Dr. Gerald “Jerry” Stokka, Cooperstown, N.D. He spoke to his graciousness and passion towards the association, and he made it evident that he cherishes being a part of it. 

“This is a fantastic board, and they work so hard,” thanked Rick Thompson, NDCHF Executive Director. Thompson kept the evening flowing introducing various people to the stage. Thompson is an instrumental part of the prominence that the NDCHF has gained throughout the past years in North Dakota and beyond.

Harris also mentioned that this Hall of Fame is not only important to this state, but surrounding states as well, like Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota, because of its positive promotion of the western way of life.

North Dakota rodeo royalty [Photo: Irene Johnson]

Miss Rodeo North Dakota, Lindsey Miller, gave an update of her busy year thus far, including the ten thousand miles she has already traveled promoting rodeo and the state of North Dakota. “I’ve already been to Denver, onto Florida and in between and will be Guymon, Oklahoma bound this week. It has been a wonderful year, so far, and we are excited for the Miss Rodeo pageant that will be coming up in about a month right here in Medora,” said Miller.

Miller also mentioned that she has been to 23 North Dakota schools, so far, to read the book she wrote, The Girl in Lime Green Jeans, and said that she only has a hundred-plus more schools to go to.

The 2023 North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame inductees are:

Cowboy Long Rider : Alan Woodbury (Dickinson & Harding County)

Special Achievement: Lansford Ghost Riders (Bottineau County)

Pre-1940s Ranching : John “Jack” McCrory (Emmons County)

Modern Era Ranching : Adolph Burkhardt (Morton County/Billings County)

Pre-1970s Rodeo :  Ray Gilstad (McKenzie County)

Modern Era Rodeo : Tim Feland (Morton County)

Modern Era Rodeo : Wade Sundby (Williams County)


The idea for the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame (NDCHF) was conceived along a stretch of Highway 83 in October 1994 as seasoned western icon Evelyn Neuens, her sister Goldie Nutter, and 40 Years of North Dakota Rodeo author Phil Baird drove home from the 40th Anniversary of the Y’s Men’s Rodeo in Minot. En route, the trio realized that the state’s rich rodeo history was being scattered to the wind and that faces and facts were fading with each aging generation. Baird proposed that they initiate an organization to honor North Dakota rodeo competitors. “Let’s do it! I’d rather wear out than rust out,” the 83-year-old Neuens said with a determined smile.

With Neuens and Baird tending the reins, they hosted gatherings in Dickinson and Mandan in early 1995 to assess public interest. Attendees noted that such an organization needed to include North Dakota ranchers and Native American cultures. Quickly “the horse” became the rope that tied the groups and the history together.

The NDCHF was formally established with a board of directors in February 1995 and was officially incorporated in March. Fundraising, logo selection, and non-profit status followed. An intense site selection process ensued. Veteran broadcast journalist, Darrell Dorgan, Bismarck, N.D., became the first executive director in October 1997 and fundraising continued.

In May 2005, the barbed wire ribbon was cut and the dream of a facility to recognize and honor North Dakota’s western heritage and culture became a reality. —


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