POCATELLO, Idaho — Just about as long as there has been the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo (DNCFR), Bill Huber (Albia, Iowa) has been there to rope calves.

But not this year.

Despite his first absence, the 17-time qualifier and 2002 DNCFR tie-down roping champion wasn't at all surprised at the recent announcement that the ProRodeo Hall of Fame is recognizing the DNCFR at this summer's induction ceremony in Colorado Springs, Colo.

"They've done a great job over the years," Huber said. "It's come a long way. The town has really grown and the rodeo has gotten a lot better. I know how hard Pocatello [Idaho] has worked for it and made it what it's become."

Here, starting Wednesday (7 p.m.) in Holt Arena, champions from the PRCA's 12 circuits square off to determine national titles. The DNCFR field includes the season circuit champions and circuit finals winners from each of the 12 circuits, which are based on geographical regions.

The circuits showcase not only some of the sport's top competitors — such as world champion bareback rider and 2004 ProRodeo Hall of Fame inductee Clint Corey (Powell Butte, Ore.) — but also cowboys who hold other jobs during the week and are known as "weekend warriors."

Other top cowboys who are scheduled to compete include 1997 World Steer Wrestling Champion Brad Gleason (Touchet, Wash.) and former DNCFR champions Carmine Nastri (Ballston Spa, N.Y.), Jesse Peterson (Dillon, Mont.), Dennis Watkins (Bakersfield, Calif.), Brad Goodrich (Hermiston, Ore.) and Fred Boettcher (Tomah, Wis.). An impressive roster of Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) qualifiers is also competing in Pocatello including Cody Jessee (Prineville, Ore.), the reigning Wrangler NFR bareback riding aggregate champion; six-time Wrangler NFR bareback rider Pete Hawkins (Weatherford, Texas); saddle bronc rider Mike Outhier (Utopia, Texas); and bull rider Beau Hill (West Glacier, Mont.).

Created in 1987, the DNCFR features a tournament-style system. Cowboys compete in two preliminary rounds. The top eight contestants in each event advance to the semifinals. After the completion of the semifinals, the top four contestants in each event move on to the final round — known as the Wrangler Round — where the national titles are decided.

Just two weeks ago, the ProRodeo Hall of Fame selected the DNCFR to receive special recognition at the Class of 2004 induction ceremonies, Aug. 14 at 10 a.m. (MT) in Colorado Springs, Colo.

"At first, there wasn't the added money, and no one thought it was a great deal," Huber said. "All the events are filled now, and the town has really gotten behind it good. This gives you a chance at winning a bunch of money. Now, the place has a nice campground for the cowboys, nice horse stalls and the ground is good for everybody. I've never heard any complaints about anything."

An anticipated crowd of 60,000 is expected for the rodeo's five performances — a figure that elates the Frontier Rodeo committee. It wasn't that long ago that this now-thriving event in this city of 52,000 in southeastern Idaho was standing on shaky ground.

"In 1998, with increasing costs and purse commitments, our rodeo stood at a turning point of being financially successful," committee chairman Dale Almond said. "Thanks to the cooperation of our new vision and a more refined way of doing business in the rodeo community, we took the rodeo in a more definitive direction to make it one of the best rodeos in the country and continue in the spirit of what the DNCFR means to the rodeo committee."

And that made the congratulatory phone call from Jim Nichols, the PRCA's director of rodeo administration, that much sweeter.

"This reward is the culmination of our new vision," Almond said. "It's the validation of that dream of what it should be. We're extremely pleased to be honored by our peers and held in high esteem. We as a board and committee are very appreciative of that consideration."