NewsMontana and Regional News


New West Rodeo Productions highlights Blackfeet heritage

Bigfork Rodeo
Mandy Arrott
Posted at 5:19 PM, Jul 08, 2024

BIGFORK — Every Independence Day weekend, the Bigfork Rodeo draws in thousands of spectators to watch one of the best rodeos in the Flathead.

While it may just seem like any other rodeo, it has a special connection to the Blackfeet Tribe.

“Having the rodeo here at Bigfork has been a dream of our families for years. I remember being a little girl and driving through Bigfork going from rodeo to rodeo, my dad would talk about one day he was going to have a rodeo here,” said Mandy Arrott of New West Rodeo Productions.

Mandy Arrott
Mandy Arrott

New West Rodeo Productions, created by the Whitford family, did just that and began the Bigfork Rodeo eight years ago.

The Whitford family ranch is unique as the family is Native Blackfeet and gets to bring their heritage to the rodeo scene.

“It's been a really good opportunity for us to showcase our Native American heritage and then also merge it with the rodeo heritage that we also have and the Western lifestyle,” said Arrott.

One of the most prominent displays of New West Rodeo's Blackfeet heritage is the Native dance that takes place before the rodeo begins.

“The dance at the beginning is the horse dance. And so what it does is it signifies the horse in our Native American culture. The horse is very, very important in the Indian culture and Native American culture. As far back as you can see, our ancestors were on a horse or using a horse to survive,” said Arrott.

The Horse Dance is presented by Native Blackfeet dancers.

“Those old Indian boys are veterans. They ride their painted horses around and we have dancers and we are circling with mares and colts. You just don’t see it like that,” said New West Rodeo creator Roy Whitford.

The Whitford Ranch is located on the Blackfeet Tribe between Cut Bank and Browning and has been kept alive for many generations.

The stock raised on the farm has been used in pro rodeos across the United States.

“It really is incredible because I think so many people are very intrigued by our culture and then also by the Western lifestyle and the rodeo lifestyle so it's so cool to be able to, to showcase that and see how we can merge the two together,” said Arrott.

“Yeah, it feels good. It's rewarding. It's a vision come true,” said Whitford.