Thousands of cowboys and cowgirls from throughout the nation are en route to Gillette for the 63rd Annual National High School Finals Rodeo, which kicks off Sunday at the Cam-Plex.

More than 1,500 contestants will begin checking in to the NHSFR at noon on Thursday in preparation for the first rodeo to get underway Sunday evening.

“These are the best of the best,” said Rex Brown, marketing director for Cam-Plex.. “There are rodeo scouts here trying to get these kids to sign up and come to their colleges.”

Thirteen rodeo performances will take place throughout the week, featuring each state’s top four athletes in each event – bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, barrel racing, goat tying, team roping, pole bending, calf roping, steer wrestling and cutting. In addition, each state is represented by a queen who will compete for the national title