A group of concerned cowboys met at Duffy's Cafe in Fort Pierre on February 2,1955, to form a South Dakota Rodeo Association. There was much concern over the judging at that time, the inability for cowboys to be able to write checks, etc. It was decided by vote at that meeting to call the new association the South Dakota Amateur Rodeo Association and it would be open to any South Dakota Amateur Cowboy. It was decided to have a point award system and to give awards at the end of the year.They decided to have 5 main directors, a President, Secretary, treasurer and 4 Directors. Officers for the first year were President-Ervin Korkow, Secretary- Nora Austin; Phyllis Schlemme-Treasurer. The board of directors consisted of Jerome Austin, Ft. Pierre, Ed Duffy, Ft Pierre; James Sutton, Onida; and Bill Holland, Pierre as the board of directors. In 1955, there were five major events: saddle bronc, bareback, bull riding, calf roping and bull dogging, with year end awards given in these events and the All Around. Each approved rodeo had to have four of the five major events. Prize money was $50 to $100 per event with $10 entry fees. Membership was $1 per year. The association would guarantee checks for the members so they did not have to carry cash for all of the rodeos. Also, any misconduct by an SDRA member carried the threat of being blacklisted, which would prevent you from competing until the problem was rectified. Members also had priority in entering rodeos if they wanted their stock set for a specific performances. In 1955 rodeos were held at Blunt, Watertown, Miller, Ft Pierre, Four Comers (Near Hayes, SD), Winner, Highmore (at the Cowan Ranch arena) and the Two-State Rodeo with North Dakota at Pierre. Either Ervin Korkow or Art Cowan provided the stock for most of these rodeos with Norval Cooper furnishing the stock for Ft Pierre. The judges list (voted on by member cowboys) included James Sutton, Sr. Art Cowan, Jerome Austin, Ken Gregg, Les Norman and Rod Curtis. There was not a finals rodeo in 1955. The North Dakota cowboys came down for a matched rodeo held in Pierre on October 2nd and the saddles were awarded following that rodeo.The first banquet was held in the Masonic Temple (above the Ft. Pierre Bank) on October 21, 1955. Governor Joe Foss was the speaker and awarded the saddles and buckles.At an April 20th meeting in 1956, it was decided to drop the "A" signifying amateur in SDARA. From that time forward the official name has been South Dakota Rodeo Association, 89 cowboys and cowgirls paid their membership dues in 1956.Even though SDRA did not have events for the ladies, there were female members. The 1956 Finals Rodeo was held in Ft Pierre on September 29-30th. There was $100 purse added in each event the the entry fees were $10. Judges for the first SDRA finals were Les and Snooks Norman and Jim Allison. This banquet was again held in Ft. Pierre and the SDRA presented a buckle to Twila Merrill of Pine Ridge for being "1956 Champion Girl Bareback Rider"Team Roping was added to the approved events in 1959. This was also the first year for the South Dakota & Nebraska Match between the cowboys which continued for several years. It was decided to print a rule book In the banquet in 1960 and It would be available for the 1961 season. In 1961 it was decide to close entries at 10 O'clock the night before the rodeo began. Before that there was a lot of confusion as to when entries closed and it could be as little as noon the day of the rodeo .In 1960 the SD Cowgirls Association combined with the SDRA and their first saddle for barrel racing was presented in 1960.
1959 Champions and Reserve Champions: Front row: Pat Cowan, Max Cornish, Buzz Bectold, Tex Fulton. Back row: Dick Wolf, Bud Day, Phylis Schlemme, Wayne Cornish and Willie Cowan.