Dakota Graham qualified for Junior National Finals Rodeo (Junior NFR) to be held December 5-10 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Six cowboys from Iowa qualified for this year’s Junior National Finals Rodeo, which is the highest number from Iowa to ever qualify in a given year. The Grahams are driving to Las Vegas with another family to share travel expenses and are planning a fundraiser Pancake Breakfast on Saturday, October 19 to help defray travel costs.

Dakota, age 14, is the son of John and Jessica Graham of La Porte City and a freshman at Union High School. Dakota stated that aside from mowing lawns, he helps his dad, John, break ponies. In his free time, Dakota enjoys trail riding on Blaze, a pony that he was given, after it failed to perform as a bucking pony. Bucking horses are Dakota’s passion. His family participates in rodeo events year ‘round, traveling in Iowa and the Midwest. Dakota added that he estimates the costs for a weekend rodeo event costing his family over $200 (fuel costs, meals, entry fees, etc). Dakota has won 10 belt buckles and three saddles from his rodeo wins thus far:

Age 3: First rodeo event Dakota participated in was “Mutton Busting” (riding sheep)
Ages 7-10: Started riding bucking calves
Ages: 10-11: Rode ‘mini’bulls (dwarf breed) He started at the TMRA (Tuff Nuff Miniature Rodeo Association)
Ages: 13-14: Started riding bareback bucking ponies and horses (This will be Dakota’s last year riding the bucking ponies bc he is getting too big, but he will continue riding the bucking horses.)

Dakota can’t remember a time when qualifying for the Jr. NFR hasn’t been his goal. While participating at the National Cattle Congress Rodeo, which was held Sept. 12th –14th, Dakota qualified through the Midwest Mini Buckers for the Jr. NFR (Junior National Finals Rodeo) which will take place in Las Vegas, Nevada between December 5-10, 2019. Dakota is nervous and excited to say the least, but he is also concerned about the expenses involved in going to Las Vegas. Dakota is looking for local sponsors to help curtail the travel costs. There will be a Pancake Breakfast fundraiser for Dakota’s trip to the finals, on Saturday, October 19th from 7-11 AM at Heartland Church in La Porte City where his prize winning buckles and saddles will be on display. A free will donation will be collected.

Dakota’s friends and teachers at Union High School are very proud of him and his achievements.