When you think of big-time summer events in South Dakota's Black Hills, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally comes to mind. But before the rally, there's another marquee summer event happening West River.

The annual Days of '76 Rodeo starts this week (July 25-29) in Deadwood.

Over the past 20 years, the Days of 76 Rodeo has been named the Small Outdoor Rodeo of the Year four times and the Medium Rodeo of the Year 11 times. The event is also a 13-time winner of the Badlands Circuit Rodeo of the Year Award and was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2011.

Now the website Thrillist is including it on a list of America's Best Rodeos, according to the cowboys who compete in them.

They talked to steer roper J. Tom Fisher, who has more than $300,000 in career earnings, about the unique factors that combine to make this rodeo so special to those participating in it:

In 2006/2007, they’d still hand you a check right after winning. I went to a casino (after the rodeo) and lost 21 hands of blackjack in a row. I had to call my grandmother and have her wire me money so I could get home. As I left, the table dealer handed me two decks of cards and said ‘go practice.’ I threw these decks around to some fellow riders and to this day people still have those decks.

Who would have thought that a blackjack table would instill more fear in a cowboy than trying to hang on for dear life while a bronco or bull tries to throw you to the ground?

The Days of '76 Rodeo is something all South Dakotans can be proud of!

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