BEMIDJI -- This weekend won’t be the first rodeo for Eliza Evans as she bolts into the arena on her horse.
For that matter, it won’t be the second or third or fourth, either.
Now 29, Evans has been on the back of a horse since she was a young child. And this weekend, Evans will saddle up once again as she gets ready to compete in Wojo’s Rodeo Circuit Finals at the Sanford Center in Bemidji.
Like any of the other times she’s competed in the rodeo, it’s a change of pace from her day job, where she lives in the sphere of legal memos and courtroom hearings. Come Monday, she trades in her riding boots and hat for business clothes and walks confidently into the county courthouse where she’s a prosecutor for the Beltrami County Attorney’s office.
Though one may not have anything to do with the other, both rodeo and the law have become major components of who Evans is as a person.
“I love my job as an attorney, but a huge part of who I am is my horses and the rodeo ... both are important parts of my life,” Evans said.
The Wojo’s Rodeo Circuit Finals will be held at the Sanford Center on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 25-26, starting at 7 p.m. Evans is set to appear in the barrel racing and breakaway roping events.
At this point in her life, Evans is able to divide her time fairly seamlessly between riding and lawyering. Working throughout the week, she knows she can pack up her gear and take her horses for a weekend of riding and still be back in the courthouse by Monday.
If she needs to get on the road as soon as possible, Evans will take her horse trailer downtown, park a little ways away and then walk to the courthouse so everything’s ready by the end of the day when she needs to head out. When she leaves work, she’ll walk back to her trailer, go pick up her horses and hit the road.
“She is a very driven individual in everything she does,” said Dana Wojciechowski, owner of Wojo’s rodeo.
Evans said that balance allows her to be a “weekend cowboy” while still working on her career. As part of the county attorney’s office, Evans works with the juvenile caseload, civil commitments and guardianship cases. The courtroom and the rodeo arena may require vastly different skill sets, but they both speak to the drive that keeps Evans going.
“I live for a challenge; whether it’s being a county attorney or rodeo, and both things challenge me so I can never get too comfortable,” Evans said.
Miss Rodeo Minnesota
It hasn’t always been quite that simple for Evans, though. In 2014, she was crowned Miss Rodeo Minnesota. In 2015, she competed for Miss Rodeo America as part of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
For many people lucky enough to find themselves in such a position, it’s their only commitment. The job requires going to rodeos in Minnesota, as well as throughout the country.
However, the day Evans realized she was named Miss Rodeo Minnesota was barely a week after she began law school.
“Going to law school, and competing in rodeos, and being Miss Rodeo Minnesota -- that was a lot to do,” Wojciechowski said. “I don’t know how she got through all that, but she certainly did.”
It may not have been the easiest schedule, but Evans was bound to make it all fit together. She may have been competing in rodeos since she was five years old, but she’d been working toward law school for most of her life, too. When presented with both opportunities, she couldn’t pick.
“I will make it work,” Evans remembers thinking about the decision to do both. “I couldn’t give up one or the other.”
Things aren’t quite so hectic for Evans today. The rodeo circuit allows her to compete, but it’s also a way for her to stay close with her family. Her brother competes. So do several of Evan’s cousins. Her parents, who live near the Canadian border, come to the events. It gives them a lot of opportunities to spend time with each other throughout the hectic summer season.
Regardless of if she has a competition or not, Evans still finds time to ride. As much as she loves her career, it’s a high-stress environment with long hours. And after a day of working, her horses allow her the chance to get away from it all.
“I obviously work really long hours at the county attorney’s office, but I pretty much ride every single day,” Evans said.