ROCHELLE — We may live smackdab in the center of the Midwest, but there is a glimpse of the true American West right under our noses. And it smells like the rodeo.
Diamond G Ranch, just five minutes outside Rochelle, has been here for nearly 50 years. Its history is rich in rodeos, cowboys and cowgirls, relationships and memories that never fade.
Those memories are continuing, thanks to Lane and Jenna Kreiser, who are bringing the property back to life after Lane bought the historic arena in 2017. Prior to the purchase, Lane knew it needed attention, but he also knew it would be a gem.
Lane grew up in Amboy, Jenna in Marseilles, but both grew up with the rodeo. Now their kids, 9-year-old Brailee and 8-month-old Rodee, will truly grow up on a ranch that hosts rodeos and events.
They’re doing what they can to spruce things up. “I want it to look welcoming, we’re trying to liven it up,” Jenna said, adding that she’s planted flowers and hope they take off.
Sunday, they’ll host their first public event since Covid-19 closed many venues throughout the country. It’s Jackpot Barrel Races all day and the public are more than welcome. The show starts at 10 a.m., although come out any time after 7 a.m. to watch the exhibition runs.
Admission is free, there’s plenty of parking and a food vendor will be on hand. It’s something for all ages and dogs are welcome, too, so long as they’re on a leash.
Not only are the spectators of all ages, so are the competitors. There are four divisions, Peewee is 10 and under; Youth is 18 and under; Adult is 19 and over; and Senior is 50 and older.
It’s sanctioned by the Illinois Barrel Racing Association.
But let’s talk about how Diamond G and the Kreisers got to this point. The improvements and additions they’ve made are significant, but some undetectable, like the expense for new gutters on the entire indoor arena and building.
One thing most will notice, though, is the new announcer’s box which went up this year. The two-story building at the north end of the arena was constructed by Lane and some friends. The Kreisers do much of the work themselves, with the help of friends and neighbors.
One major endeavor included shifting the entire outdoor arena to accommodate two natural gas pipelines that go through the property. That was tricky, but now there no longer are fears of interfering with the pipeline.
Sunday’s event is barrel racing, but they plan to host more events such as rodeos, bull riding, team sorting, team penning, roping and more barrel racing.
Jenna also is doing horse training, in her spare time. She trained her horse, Dallas, to sit on command in less than three months. She also has a bull that she boards in Wisconsin that is a showstopper and winner.
Diamond G Ranch wouldn’t have happened without the vision and hard work of Milo and Dena Gittleson, who purchased the property in 1972 and turned it into rodeo central. Jenna said the same participants who made the rodeo a success nearly 50 years ago, come back now with their kids and grandkids and share stories of Diamond G Ranch. Back in the day it was nicknamed the “cow palace.”
Gittleson’s daughters, Sandy and Donna still lease and operate the store.
One thing the Gittleson’s started which the Kreisers have continued is the New Year’s Eve bull riding competition. It’s a huge hit in the indoor arena and, despite not being advertised, was a popular event this past year and they intend to continue in all the years to come.
If you can’t make the barrel races this weekend, there’s another one around the corner on Saturday, May 15.
It’s a new day at Diamond G Ranch and, just like always, everyone is welcome … whether you have memories from its past, are a competitor or you’re a curious member of the cheering crowd.
Western attire is, of course, optional, but beware that the rodeo and Western culture are going to want you coming back for more.
And that’s why we have Diamond G Ranch.