Rich rodeo history resides in Sutton family

Farm Forum

The history of Sutton Rodeo Company parallels the growth and development of rodeo in South Dakota and the entire nation for nearly a century. And they’re still going strong today, providing the muscle behind most of the rodeo events held at this year’s Black Hills Stock Show & Rodeo.

Here is a historic look back at the Sutton family, as provided by the family itself:

In 1926, the Edwin Sutton family began producing its own rodeos on the home ranch in Sully County. Originally the rodeo was just a pleasant pastime when a group of people got together on a Sunday. However, Edwin saw a possibility for profit and joined with George Fairbank to begin a touring rodeo. The Depression shut down the productions and they did not begin again until the mid-1940s.

James H. Sutton, Sr. took Sutton rodeo to the next stage in the 1950s when he entered into a partnership with Erv Korkow. As one of the first members of the RCA, Sutton/Korkow stock performed at the first National Finals Rodeo at Dallas, Texas in 1959.

The Company won Bull of the Year with “Baldy” in 1961 and had Reserve Champion horses “Snake River” in 1962 and “Yellow Jacket” in 1964. James was the first Stock Contractor to be inducted in the PRCA Hall of Champions in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1982.

In 1968, James Sutton, Jr. became a partner with his dad forming Sutton Rodeo Company and the tradition continued. Sutton Rodeo had three PRCA Horse of the Year awards, “Deep Water” in 1979 and “Big Bud” in 1985 and “Chuckulator” in 2012, Top Saddle Bronc of the World and WNFR. Sutton Rodeo stock has been selected to perform at 54 of the 56 National Finals Rodeos. Jim, along with wife Julie, took the company to the next level with a focus on production and innovation. Jim began the Black Hills Stock Show & Rodeo in 1978, a rodeo nominated 15 times for PRCA “Indoor Rodeo of the Year,” winning the award in 2002 and 2003.

Jim originated the Wrangler Bullfights and the Bailey Bail-Off. He is famous for his pageantry and colorful rodeo openings, including the openings at the NFR in 1995-96. Jim has been nominated four times as “Stock Contractor of the Year.” Jim’s wife, Julie, an experienced rodeo secretary and NFR timer, is in charge of publicity and advance promotion.

Jim’s son, Steve, is co-owner of Sutton Rodeo and was an NFR pickup man in three decades (1978, 1981, 1986, 1993 & 1995). As the fourth generation of Sutton Rodeo Company, Steve has been a PRCA member since 1976, and became a Stock Contractor in 1982.

He takes great pride in the history of Sutton Rodeo, striving to breed top quality bucking stock and produce top notch rodeos. Steve particularly enjoys producing college, high school and 4-H rodeos. In 2010 Steve was inducted into the Casey Tibbs Rodeo Center as “Present Cowboy Great.” Steve’s wife, Kim, assists the rodeo company in the areas of timing, publicity and marketing, and has timed the NFR five times.

Steve and Kim’s children, the fifth generation of Sutton Rodeo, while reaping the benefit of over 80 years of experience, are now hard at work on their own, looking at ways to continue the family legacy and add their own improvements to the company.

Their daughter, Amy, started timing PRCA rodeos in 2006 and is the office manager for Sutton Rodeos Inc., her husband Steven Muller, helps with the livestock and rodeo production. Son Brent started his career as a pickup man in 2004 and became a PRCA contestant in 2007. Son Brice works with the livestock and rodeo production, joining the PRCA ranks in 2010. All have pursued college degrees in Animal Science and/or Business and intend to use these degrees to continue the tradition of raising 90% of their breeding stock. Grandson Shaden James, son of Amy & Steven, starts the sixth generation of Suttons in rdoeo.