By Tyler Allen
Explore Big Sky Senior Editor

BIG SKY – This year’s Big Sky Pro Bull Riders event will again include two Calcutta auctions on July 30 and 31, raising money for area nonprofits.

Big Sky Community Corp. and the Yellowstone Park Foundation each received more than $10,000 from the two nights of fundraising last summer and will again be the beneficiaries of this year’s Calcutta.

Spanish Peaks Community Foundation will for the second year in a row be sponsoring the Calcutta, which begins each night at 5:30 p.m. under the Golden Buckle tent.

The forty bull riders will be split into eight teams of five, and then a fast-talking professional auctioneer will sell off each team to the highest bidder. All that money will be pooled with half of it being split by BSCC and YPF.

The other half will be paid out to buyers of the teams with the top three aggregate scores as they battle the bulls throughout each night’s riding contest. The top bidders on the winning team will receive 70 percent, the second place team will pull in 20 percent, and 10 percent will go to the winners of the third place team.

“Sharing the proceeds from the auction with BSCC, including us in the Yellowstone Club tent, and having YPF staff as volunteers were all very special,” said YPF President Karen Kress after last year’s event.

Auctions have been used to sell goods and services since ancient Babylonia, and Roman armies used to sell off the spoils of conquered cities to the highest bidder. During the Civil War, colonels were tasked with auctioning off the boots, firearms and clothes of fallen soldiers.

A Calcutta auction has a decidedly more upbeat nature, as it’s used to wager on a variety of sports, including golf and NCAA basketball. It gets its name from a type of betting that originated in Calcutta, India in the early 1800s.

So many spectators would wager on horse races in this colonial city that organizers would enter the betters into a lottery and pull one ticket for the right to bet on a particular horse. The winning ticket would then be auctioned off to the highest bidder – half the money went to the ticket holder and half into a pool. Depending on where they placed, the horses would then pay out to both the pool and the winning ticket holder.

Chad Berger of Mandan, N.D., provides bulls for 35-40 events a season – including the Big Sky PBR – and says only about a half dozen of those hold a Calcutta auction.

“[The Calcutta] adds a lot for the fans that buy a team,” Berger said. “It’s more exciting for them and makes them feel more of a part of the event.”

The Calcutta auction is open to Golden Buckle ticket holders only. For event details and ticket info, visit explorebigsky.com/bigskypbr. Title and presenting sponsors of this year’s event are the Yellowstone Club, Big Sky Resort, Spanish Peaks Mountain Club, and Moonlight Basin.