Each October, 63,000 people attend the Northern International Livestock Exposition and Rodeo (NILE). The event generates over a $6.4 million economic impact for Billings and Yellowstone County.
The 53rd annual NILE will look much different than it has in the past. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, some NILE events, including the PRCA rodeo, have been canceled while many have been rescheduled.
Dustin Reisig, president of NILE board, said everyone is disappointed to cancel aspectes of the event. It was a decision that did not come easy.
“Our capacity would have been cut down by 32 to 40 percent,” said Reisig. “Then to figure out how to make that work with dollars and cents we didn't feel that it was fiscally responsible to go and try to have a full show and rodeo, to possibly be shut down for any reason. It would have broken the back of this organization.”
Most of the stockshow and equine events are still going to be held in person at Millers Horse Palace in Laurel. With a select few held virtually. The schedule runs from September 30th through October 18th. A majority of events will also be broadcast live online.
“The stockshow, along with the cattle and horse sales will all be offered online,” Reisig explained. “We're trying to do what we can and have as many shows as we can live. We will take advantage of technology to do virtual shows too.”
Part of the NILE’s mission is promoting agriculture education. One of the most popular events each year is the 4th grade ag education field days. Though this year's event will not be a hands-on learning opportunity, it will have a bigger reach being online.
“We are going to go virtual with that this year and offer it to all of the 4th grade classes in the state and region,” said Reisig. “I think it could be a real big thing for agriculture to educate all of our 4th graders. Sharing the ag education online will be a huge benefit.”
The organizations commitment to helping youth get a start in the cattle business with the NILE Merit Heifer Program will also take place this year.
Despite what has happened this year, the NILE has already begun looking towards the 2021 event.
“We have a tremendous set of people that are managing the NILE,” shared Reisig. “They have spent endless hours trying to figure out what we can do and alternate plans for the event. This is what we came up with. When you see the schedule, you will see there is a lot going on. And, we are still keeping it in the Yellowstone County area. 2021, I think is going to be great. I think it's going to be nothing but stronger.”