Julie Mankin, Author at Bob Feist Invitational

46th BFI Roster Set

The star-studded cast entered in the 46th annual Bob Feist Invitational on April 1 in Guthrie, Oklahoma, includes the only four humans who’ve won the BFI three times. High-money leader Clay Tryan, Hall-of-Famers Speed Williams and Rich Skelton (roping with other partners), and 2021 champ Kory Koontz will each be part of 125 teams gunning for a first-place cash prize that reached $150,000 last year.

Tryan, also a three-time world champion, will try to add to the $259,361 BFI dollars he’s banked with his gold-buckle partner Jade Corkill – who has never won the BFI. And Koontz brings a new partner in Peyton Walters, who won the 2020 Yeti Jr. Open at the USTRC Finals. Meanwhile, BFI heavyweight Skelton will be stopping the clock for Clayton Van Aken, who has won go-rounds and placed in past BFI averages. Other BFI heavy-hitters Cory Petska, Buddy Hawkins and Luke Brown will try it on this time with Clint Summers, Andrew Ward and Hunter Koch, respectively.

The veterans will appreciate this as the first year an Open roping pays back 100 percent of their entry fees. The rookies are just glad to be on the roster – including the youngest-ever heeler to achieve a 9.5 handicap. In fact, this year’s first-timers are some of the most talented teenagers in the history of team roping.

Read More: BFI to Pay Back One Hundred Percent

Is this an April Fool’s Joke? Not hardly. For the first time in history, the Bob Feist Invitational on April 1 will pay back 100 percent of the pot to ropers.

Defending national high school champion James Arviso, 19, is partnered with 16-year-old Nicky Northcott, whose dad Steve won the BFI in 1991 with Charles Pogue and again in ’93 with Matt Tyler. Arviso – Derrick Begay’s nephew – is not only the defending Jr. BFI champ but placed second at the 2022 BFI with Josh Patton to split $100,000. Zack Woods, 24, and Michael Calmelat – the 14-year-old No. 9.5 – are former Jr. NFR champions bringing Daniel Reed and Pedro Egurrola, respectively, while 17-year-old Denton Dunning was picked up by world champion Aaron Tsinigine for the BFI.

Meanwhile, defending BFI champs Jake Clay and Billie Jack Saebens will be tough to beat with their new partners, each world champs. Clay will head for Kollin VonAhn, while Saebens will heel for Matt Sherwood. Most notably, draw No. 56 will be Williams, who returns to “The Feist” for the second time with his 16-year-old son, Gabe, after 13 years away.

Legendary Hall-of-Famer and former BFI champ Trevor Brazile, who retired from full-time competition, will head for Joseph Harrison this year. Fan-favorite Begay drug his old Arizona friend Colter Todd off the Arizona ranch to try their luck, while former BFI champ and world champ Walt Woodard will team with Quinn Kesler. Plus, world champion header Colby Lovell is partnering with former NFR heeler Dakota Kirchenschlager, who retired from rodeo.

The public will be hard-pressed to choose a prospective winner at the annual Cowboy Auction and Dinner, scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Chicken Shack in Arcadia, Oklahoma, on Friday night, March 31. The BFI anchors Wrangler BFI Week, which last year paid out $2.92 million in cash and prizes, and runs March 29 through April 4.

Read More: 2023 The Feist Draw

Tickets for the BFI can be purchased on site at the Lazy E Arena, by phone at 405-282-RIDE or online at ticketmaster.com. A special roper rate is available at the Hampton Inn and Suites of Guthrie, by calling (405) 293-9595. 

BFI 46 Adds Ropings, Clinic, and After-Party

Tickets are on sale now for the 46th annual Bob Feist Invitational roping coming to Guthrie, Oklahoma’s Lazy E Arena on April 1 for the fourth straight year. 


The world’s richest Open roping, featuring the 125 best professional teams over six rounds, occurs on a Saturday smack in the middle of Wrangler BFI Week, presented by Yeti. In 2023, the extravaganza has been extended to seven full days – March 29 through April 4.


“We paid out $2.88 million in cash last year at Wrangler BFI Week, and look for some record-breaking payouts in Oklahoma now with the addition of three ropings,” said Daren Peterson, who owns the BFI with his wife, Kami Peterson, and Corky and Kristi Ullman. 


On Tuesday, April 4, the producers have added brand-new 9.5-Over-40, 8.5 and 7 ropings. In the 9.5, you can be 40 anytime in 2023, and it’s capped at 5.5 heelers. The 8.5 and 7 ropings are pick-or-draw, capped at 4.5 and 4 ropers, respectively, and are progressive after two with age minimums of at 21. 


Find schedule details and entry forms for those and the Charlie 1 Horse All-Girl Team Roping and Breakaway, Hooey Jr. BFI Championships, BFI Legends for past BFI ropers over 40, 15.5, 12.5, 11.5 Businessman’s and 10.5-Over-40 ropings at www.bfiweek.com. Entries will be taken on-site with a $100 per team late fee, or postmark by March 1. 


And on March 31, in the Equinety Arena (the warm-up arena by the stalls) BFI greats will be giving a free clinic, new this year, to all Jr. BFI contestants. The clinic presented by Smarty is from 10 a.m. to noon (Jr. BFI contestants can also show their back numbers the next morning for free admission into the BFI). 


That night, plan to attend the legendary BFI cowboy auction and free welcome dinner with entertainment, now at the infamous Chicken Shack on Rt. 66 in Arcadia, south of the Lazy E Arena. Doors open at 5 and the first team sells at 6 p.m. 


Finally, during “The Feist” on April 1 fans can enjoy a brand-new Beer Garden in the Lazy E, featuring world champion calf roper Shane Hanchey’s popular Cajun food truck. Bo’s Boil N Geaux was named after Taylor Hanchey’s NFR barrel horse and offers creole goodies like crawfish, sausage, chicken and shrimp; etouffee and gumbo.  


Also, a new Kids’ Corral and Smarty Arena will host jackpots for kiddos that day, including the Future Champions Dummy Roping at 10 a.m. Finally, a Saturday-night BFI after-party is in the works upstairs in the Cantina over the boxes, open to the public and featuring up-and-coming cowboy recording artist Tyler Halverson. The next day, the 12.5 again has $10,000 added, and ropers can enjoy Happy Hour and a cornhole tournament powered by Texas Ranch Sales. 


BFI tickets are available in person at the Lazy E box office, by phone at 405-282-RIDE, or online at www.ticketmaster.com. A special BFI rate is available at the Hampton Inn and Suites in Guthrie by calling (405) 293-9595. Visit www.BFIWeek.com for more information. 


About Ullman-Peterson Events

The Phoenix-based production company helmed by Daren Peterson and Corky Ullman has owned and produced the Bob Feist Invitational since 2012 and purchased the Reno Rodeo Invitational team ropings in 2015. Founded by notable rodeo announcer and publisher Bob Feist in 1977, the BFI is the richest team roping event for professionals and one of the most prestigious, due to its limited roster and long head-start for steers. The high-stakes amateur, female and youth roping events surrounding the BFI comprise Wrangler BFI Week presented by Yeti – one of the most lucrative Western sporting events of its kind.

High Stakes on Even Cattle

When amateur team ropers drive hundreds of miles and spend thousands of dollars for the chance to win six figures, they don’t need to get outrun just after the preceding team had a loper.


That’s according to Bob Feist Invitational Week producer Daren Peterson, whose 46th Annual BFI is happening on April Fool’s Day this year in Guthrie, Oklahoma (tickets go on sale Feb. 1). That means all the ropers entering the Hooey Jr. BFI, the Charlie 1 Horse All-Girl, the BFI Legends, the 15.5, 12.5, 11.5, 10.5-Over and brand-new 9.5-Over-40, 8.5 and 7.5, on March 29 through April 4, know a few things.


First, they can win paydays like last year’s $180,000 in the 12.5, for instance, but also, they can expect plenty of first-class stalls onsite with no hauling required, plus full RV hookups. They can expect ample warm-up space to lope circles. And most importantly, they’ll nod their heads for honest, even cattle. 


“At some big ropings, the cattle have already been used a lot,” said Scott Gage of 3 Point Productions, who with Jeff Smith will bring up to 600 head to Guthrie. “But we break steers in and get steers ready only for BFI Week.”


An Oklahoma native, Smith had the cattle at the USTRC Finals for some 20 years.


“As long as steers haven’t had many runs, they’re fairly similar,” he said. “We pride ourselves on honest steers, and we like the BFI ropings and want great cattle there.”


Smith puts on three other ropings annually at the Lazy E Arena, including one just a week prior to BFI Week. 


“After we break in the BFI cattle, we put two runs on them at that jackpot behind that barrier, and sort every steer there, so they’re programmed for that arena,” Smith said. “It works out great and when BFI Week starts, we don’t worry because we saw them all last week.”


Kenny Brown’s confidence in the steers and scoreline at Guthrie brings the veteran heeler to the Lazy E each year, despite it being a thousand miles from his Maryland home. 


“Those ropings are roper-friendly and it’s set up for you to catch,” said Brown, who will enter the brand-new 9.5-Over-40 with his wife, MaryAnn, and also plans to find a header for the 12.5. “It doesn’t feel like the producer is trying to beat you. He’s giving you a chance. Also, even though it moved, it’s a very prestigious roping. It’s still the Bob Feist.”


Peterson knows that Gage and Smith do more than put eyeballs and sorting sticks on every single steer before it comes up the alley at the Lazy E Arena.


“Throughout the week, their crew sorts every steer all day, every day,” said Peterson, who owns BFI Week with Corky Ullman. “And Doug Clark, our line judge, also has input into setting the score and managing cattle. The reason we hire 3 Point and Jeff Smith Productions is that they use our same philosophy – to take the time to do it right and make it as roper-friendly as possible.”


It’s an intricate science, deciding which steers need more runs and which need culled. That kind of attention to detail is what makes gals pull into Guthrie to try for another thirty-thousand-dollar payday like Lari Dee Guy had in 2001, or teenagers show up to gun for $25,000. 


“I’ve been going to BFI Week for I don’t know how many years for that 11.5 Businessman’s roping,” said Texan Belo Wiley, whose son Chase has been an annual BFI contestant for years. “The steers and the conditions are very consistent, and that’s hard to do, as a producer.”


This year, he’s also planning to enter the 10.5-Over-40, and the new 9.5-Over-40 and 8.5, which will utilize slower steers also sorted and brought specifically for those ropings. Gone are the days when a producer would let Open teams break in a herd and then run those steers all week in other ropings, said Smith. He was even asked to put seven or eight runs on the steers he brought to Cheyenne Frontier Days last summer, because rodeo’s elite don’t want unpredictable steers – roping just costs so much now.


“At BFI Week, we have guys sitting at the back end watching, and if a steer doesn’t fit, he’s out of there,” said Smith. “It’s easy to do. Steers cost a lot of money and it’s a lot of work sorting, but it’s not hard. If you want them to be good, that’s the way you have to do it.”


That means ropers in BFI Week’s traditional 11.5 Businessman’s and 10-Over-40, plus the brand-new 9.5-Over-40, 8.5 and 7.5 ropings, can rest assured of an even playing field. Similar cattle means everyone has a fair chance – from the BFI itself down to the 7.5.


“Things have changed,” Smith pointed out. “It doesn’t matter if your fees are a thousand a man or $150 a man, people won’t go rope uneven cattle.”