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Lost Dutchman Days Rodeo Feb. 23-25 in Apache Junction

Posted 2/23/24

The 60th Annual Lost Dutchman Days Rodeo will draw thousands to the city of Apache Junction and its shops and stores.

The rodeo, a rain-or-shine event to be held Feb. 23-25 with all proceeds …

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Things to do

Lost Dutchman Days Rodeo Feb. 23-25 in Apache Junction


The 60th Annual Lost Dutchman Days Rodeo will draw thousands to the city of Apache Junction and its shops and stores.

The rodeo, a rain-or-shine event to be held Feb. 23-25 with all proceeds donated back to local children’s organizations, is presented by the Lost Dutchman Days Committee, a partnership of the Apache Junction Mounted Rangers and Superstition Mountain Promotional Corp.

New for 2024, a set number of tickets will be sold for each day’s rodeo performance.

Patrons will not be able to transfer days so ensure tickets are purchased for the correct day, said Denny Walter, chairman of the volunteer Lost Dutchman Days Committee.

“Tickets are Friday, Saturday or Sunday only — there are no multiday tickets. The chamber’s selling them; they are the only ones selling them,” he said.

Since 1994, more than $1.6 million has been donated to children’s charities from funds raised through the rodeo, Walter said.

“Well for one thing it’s a good thing for the community — it brings all of the community together. And people enjoy seeing a rodeo so we enjoy putting it on for them to come see it and bring the community together and to share Apache Junction with them,” he said.

Funds raised go to charities that do good works in the community, said Rich Sterba, Apache Junction Mounted Rangers member.

“It raises money for the needy children’s families here in Apache Junction. That’s the big thing,” he said. “It always goes to a good cause. We don’t just pick people out of the clear blue. It’s got to be people that need it.”

Allison Strathearn, Apache Junction Mounted Rangers member, likes that the rodeo promotes the Western lifestyle.

“They’ve been doing it for 60 years and it keeps the Western lifestyle and the Western community here,” she said. “It’s a very community-oriented community.”

Rodeo royalty chosen

Lost Dutchman Days rodeo royalty were chosen Jan. 13 after ceremonies at the Apache Junction Elks Lodge. They are: Hailey Anderson, queen; Taylor Ballard, senior teen queen; Rebecca Dillard, junior teen queen; and Jayde Houston and Remi Houston, both as little miss LDD.

There were 11 entrants this year, including six for little miss LDD.

Royalty Director Heidi Erickson credited a change in date for the competition and monetary help from sponsors for the large number of contestants this year.

“I believe it’s because we changed the date to a week later, so I think that was the biggest part of it. And then this year we had Ergon Asphalt and Emulsions sponsor us a saddle for our queen. I have some great sponsors who sponsor the girls... They really help the girls travel so much; they’ll be able to travel all over Arizona a lot more than they have in the past,” she said at a break in the rodeo royalty pageant.

The competition for rodeo royalty drew supporters from Maricopa, Peoria and Snowflake.

Michelle Ogle of Maricopa attended to watch her daughter, Addison, compete for LDD senior teen queen. Rodeo is an event that keeps the Western way of life alive, she said.

“Especially for the kids, I think its important because it keeps that Western history going and keeps it going for the generations. And it also gives the children an outlet to have something fun to do,” Ogle said.

Keith Turner of Peoria also attended the competition to cheer on Addison Ogle, his granddaughter. He watched as those vying for queen, senior teen queen and junior teen queen showed their horsemanship skills in a morning part of the competition that was held at the Apache Junction Rodeo Grounds.

“It was fun; we enjoyed it,” he said. “It seems like a good thing to keep younger people going.”

Snowflake resident Kennedy Ballard, 2024 Fort Verde Days junior rodeo queen, attended the competition to support her sister, Taylor Ballard, who was competing for senior teen queen.

“I think it’s important to have rodeo because it not only brings together everyone to have a good time but it also is a celebration of what our ancestors worked for and showing their hard work, things they had to do on a daily basis,” Kennedy Ballard said.

“It brings the community together,” said her father, Allen Ballard of Snowflake. “Got to find out whose ranch hand is the best, right?”

2024 rodeo

The full eight-event rodeo has professional cowboys and cowgirls competing for prize money beginning at 1:30 p.m. each day at the Apache Junction Rodeo Grounds, 1590 E. Lost Dutchman Blvd., at Tomahawk Road.

The classic events include bareback, calf roping, saddlebronc, steer wrestling, ladies breakaway roping, barrel racing, team roping and the crowd favorite of bull riding.

Theme days are: “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” on Friday, “We are AJ Day” on Saturday and military/first-responders day on Sunday. A kids grocery race is planned Saturday and Sunday during the rodeo.

Adult tickets are $20 for the rodeo and $15 for ages 10 and under at the gate, with a $2 discount on both for advance purchases.

Advance rodeo and carnival ticket sales are only available at the Apache Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, 567 W. Apache Trail in Apache Junction; 480-982-3141. Carnival tickets cost $25 for an all-day ride pass if bought early (quantity limited) or $35 at the event.

The rodeo features hundreds of contestants, all of whom put up an entry fee to win the coveted Lost Dutchman Days Rodeo prize money and belt buckles.

Mutton bustin’

The mutton bustin’ competition for ages 4-7 who are under 60 pounds in weight will be Saturday, Feb. 24, immediately following the rodeo. They must have rodeo tickets for Saturday’s performance to participate. Register at 1 p.m. until full or at the end of barrel racing on Feb. 24 at the rodeo west of the grandstands under the pop-up tent. Cost is $30 per rider, cash only, with a limit of 45 riders.

Mutton bustin’ riders will be required to wear a vest and provided helmet. A waiver must be signed by a legal guardian. Children are allowed to use their hands to hold on but no spurs, straps or other devices will be allowed.

Event center

A carnival, the rodeo, vendor booths, free entertainment, food and more will be Feb. 23-25 at the main Event Center at the Apache Junction Rodeo Grounds, 1590 E. Lost Dutchman Blvd. Event Center admission is $2; and parking is free.

Free entertainment at the Carnival Stage at the rodeo grounds will be offered Feb. 23-25:

  • Friday, Feb. 23: 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Roadhouse Wranglers; and 3-6 p.m., Livin’ On Mars.
  • Saturday, Feb. 24: 10 a.m.-noon, Billy G And The Kids; 12:30-3:30 p.m., Desert Reign Band; and 4-7 p.m., Ripple Affect.
  • Sunday, Feb. 25: 10-11 a.m., Cowboy Church with Steve Edwards and the Broken Chair Band; 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Rusty Wagon Band; and 2-5 p.m., Outside The Line.

For a full list of events, go to lostdutchmandays.org.

Richard H. Dyer can be reached at rdyer@iniusa.org, or on X @rhdyer. To voice your opinion on this story, connect with us at AzOpinions@iniusa.org.