An estimated $140,000 is up for grabs as the Delta Center hosts seven nights of steer wrestling, bull riding and big belt buckle wearing as the Days of '47 Rodeo begins its annual run.

Many of the world's top cowboys will be in town for the event that has become one of the top rodeos in the country. Last year, the Days of '47 rodeo ranked as the 31st highest paying rodeo on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association tour.More than 240 truckloads of dirt were hauled into the normally pristine basketball arena Wednesday to welcome the likes of 1997 world champion All-Around Cowboy Dan Mortensen and Utah's own Chad Bedell - the 1996 Steer Wrestling world champ. Mortensen is currently well off the pace to defend his all-around title (Ty Murray has a commanding lead), and Bedell has cut back his rodeo workload considerably since claiming his world title.

However, nearly all the top-ranked cowboys in the world will be at the Days of '47 Rodeo at some time or another before making the rounds to other top rodeos such as the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo, which is also taking place.

"These (are) the biggest weeks for rodeo," said rodeo organizer Brad Harmon. "We're right in the middle of a bunch of good rodeos from Calgary to Cheyenne, and we should see some really good action."

Each night will see the full slate of action from bareback bronc riding to the closing event - bull riding. Of course, no rodeo would be complete without a little diversion, and this year features a carnival-type atmosphere on the Delta Center plaza and the ever-popular event of wild cow milking between events.

"It's a team thing where they rope the cow down when we bring them in off the range," Harman said. "Usually they're mean buggers. A partner will try to hold it and the guy that roped it will try to get some milk in a bottle."