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'Every day was rodeo day': Gold Mine Ranch owners reflect on years as Beltrami County Fair rodeo promoters

After 22 years as promoters of the rodeo held each year during the Beltrami County Fair, the owners of Gold Mine Ranch recently announced via letter to their sponsors that they will no longer be the promoters of the event.

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In addition to promoting the rodeo at the Beltrami County Fair each year, Gold Mine Ranch owners Kris Klasen and Joe Waslaski have been raising quarter horses and offering horse boarding north of Bemidji for nearly 25 years.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer
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For Gold Mine Ranch owners Joe Waslaski and Kris Klasen, it's definitely not their first rodeo.

After 22 years as promoters of the Triple B Rodeo, held each year during the Beltrami County Fair, the pair recently announced via letter to their sponsors that they will no longer be promoters of the event.

The decision didn’t come easy, but after the COVID-19 pandemic threw challenge after challenge at them, Waslaski and Klasen had to make a difficult choice.

“It’s probably one of the hardest decisions we’ve had to make,” Klasen said.
A major factor in their decision to retire came after a slew of issues arose in 2020.

“In 2020 it was a sponsor-only rodeo. We didn’t open it up to fans,” Klasen said. “There was no fair, but we still did the rodeo.”

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Pandemic-related issues caused them to run into a variety of problems. Their rodeo announcer was retiring, their sheep provider was no longer able to provide sheep for mutton busting, and they were having trouble finding rodeo clowns and workers to take tickets and monitor gates.

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A young girl holds on during the “mutton bustin” event during the Triple B Rodeo in August 2018 at the Beltrami County Fair.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

“That was a stressful year,” Klasen said. “Can we have (the rodeo)? Can’t we have it? We went up and down.”

Then, in November 2021, the couple got COVID.

“We had it pretty bad,” Waslaski said. “We weren’t calling (sponsors). We were too sick to even think about it, to be honest.”

After that, Waslaski and Klasen took a step back and considered their options. They had been juggling the rodeo with their personal lives and other responsibilities for decades, and although 2021 saw the Beltrami County Fair back in action, the problems the pair dealt with were far from over.

“It’s not over,” Klasen said about the COVID-related issues the rodeo would have to face heading into summer. “I don’t know that a lot of businesses will be able to sponsor like they have in the past. There’s so many that are hurting.”

“We just kind of regrouped and said we’re going to quit working as hard and do something different,” Waslaski said.

‘A full-time job’

When the couple looks back on their first years as promoters of the Triple B Rodeo at the Beltrami County Fair, they remember feeling apprehensive about the new venture.

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“When we started, we didn’t know anything about rodeo, nothing,” Klasen said. “We had gone to a couple, but had no idea what it entailed.”

At the time, Waslaski was a member of the Beltrami County Fair Board, and a discussion regarding discontinuing the fair’s rodeo ensued during a monthly meeting. The discussion, he said, got him thinking about stepping up to the plate in order for the event to continue.

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Dozens of trophies, ribbons and an assortment of other hardware from their winnings over the years line the walls of Gold Mine Ranch owners Kris Klasen and Joe Waslaski’s office.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

He told Klasen about the opportunity, and after a few days of mulling it over, the couple decided to give it a shot.
“We took the risk,” Klasen said. “And the first couple years, it was a big risk.”

A big risk indeed — being the sole promoting team for the rodeo was no small job. The couple had the daunting task of securing enough sponsors to make the event possible.

To accomplish this, Waslaski decided to find sponsors by going door-to-door, hoping to build the kind of in-person relationships with potential sponsors that can’t be built through making phone calls or sending letters.

“He visited every single one, personally, every single year,” Klasen said about Waslaski’s efforts to find sponsors. “He met everybody.”

The first few years were tricky, the couple said, as they worked relentlessly to learn the ropes of being rodeo promoters, all while both working day jobs and running their ranch.

“The first few years were kind of rocky,” Waslaski said.

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“The first year was way scary," Klasen added.
From that point on, the couple was constantly working to put together sponsorship packages, hire 4-H groups for different jobs at the rodeo and set up the arena during fair week.

Triple B bullfighter
A bull goes after a rodeo clown during the Gold Mine Ranch Triple B Rodeo at the Beltrami County Fairgrounds.
Courtesy / Nick Johnson of 144 Visuals LLC

The end product of their efforts: a successful, widely-attended event that went off without a hitch for decades.
“The rodeo was a full-time job. (Joe) would go out one to two days every week for the sponsors,” Klasen said. “It was a lot of work.”

Though it took years of trial and error for the couple to craft the rodeo into what it was, they remember their years of rodeo promotion fondly and said they are grateful for their sponsors, competitors and fans.

“We’ve had a wonderful, wonderful time,” Waslaski said. “It’s just time to let somebody else take over and try to make it work.”

Following the couple’s decision to retire, the future of the rodeo at the Beltrami County Fair is now unclear.

“They’re either going to do different things on those nights or they’re going to try to continue with the rodeo if they can get someone who wants to step up and take that responsibility,” Waslaski said.

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Ella Larson of Blackduck attempts to rope a calf at the Gold Mine Ranch/Triple B Rodeo in August 2019 at the Beltrami County Fair.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

'It’s the friends you meet'

Throughout their time as promoters of the rodeo, the couple said one of the most valuable aspects of the experience was the relationships they built along the way.

“It’s not only what you accomplish, it’s the friends you meet,” Waslaski said. “We met a lot of people and made a lot of friends.”

Many of these relationships were with their sponsors, some of whom sponsored the rodeo for the entire 22 years Waslaski and Klasen were promoting it. During his visits with sponsors, Waslaski said he was able to create hundreds of meaningful connections throughout the years.

Bareback rider Tucker Depew, from Blackduck, holds tight during the Triple B Rodeo at the Beltrami County Fair in 2017. (Pioneer file photo)
Bareback rider Tucker Depew, from Blackduck, holds tight during the Triple B Rodeo at the Beltrami County Fair in 2017.
(Pioneer file photo)

“You learn to be a good listener,” Waslaski said. “Some days people really need to vent or unload or talk about their good day or their bad day.”

Looking forward, the couple said they’re looking forward to having at least a little bit more free time for traveling and taking care of their horses.

“We were really stretching ourselves thin,” Klasen said about her and Waslaski’s last few years with the rodeo. “We’re ready to relax for a little bit.”

As for the couple's future plans following their retirement from being rodeo promoters, well, they hope to go to more rodeos. This time, just as fans.

“We didn’t get to go see other big rodeos that we’d like to. We’re hoping to retire and go do some of those things,” Klasen said with a laugh. “We’d like to just go and not have to work.”  

“It’s going to be different,” Waslaski said. “Every day was rodeo day.”

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Dozens of trophies, ribbons and an assortment of other hardware from their winnings over the years line the walls of Gold Mine Ranch owners Kris Klasen and Joe Waslaski’s office.
Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer

Madelyn Haasken is the multimedia editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is a 2020 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Mass Communication, with minors in writing and design. In her free time, she likes watching hockey, doing crossword puzzles and being outside.
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