Born Sept. 22, 1900, in Mandan, Frank E. Wetzstein was a Mandan businessman, a rancher and a long-time supporter of the Mandan Rodeo, especially during the 1940s and early 50s.
His efforts helped bring big-time rodeo to Mandan, with rodeo performers like Toots Mansfield, Casey Tibbs and the North Dakota ‘Six Pack’ and movie stars like Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and the Sons of the Pioneers.
His groundwork enabled the Mandan Rodeo to grow into what is now a 126-year tradition as the July 4th Mandan Rodeo Days celebration and the longest running rodeo in the U.S. Frank was a tireless supporter of the rodeo and a part owner, along with Gene Autry and Leo Cramer of Big Timber, Montana.
Convincing cowboys to participate in the July 4th event, Frank brought some of the best rodeo performing cowboys to the Mandan Rodeo, which brought in 11,000 or more people to a performance. He was instrumental in starting a free Saturday matinee rodeo so underprivileged children could see the rodeo.
Frank performed numerous benevolent acts for cowboys and others who had fallen on hard times, often paying the cowboys’ travel expenses out of his own pocket. Most of his good deeds went unnoticed because he did them anonymously.
He was also known for his ranching ability. Frank operated two working ranches in North Dakota where he raised registered Quarter horses and Angus cattle. He served as the first president of the Quarter Horse Association.
As a rancher, cowboy and businessman, Frank was an outstanding role model for those who came after him. He brought recognition to rodeo, to Mandan and to North Dakota.
With various partners, Frank started Mandan’s Palace Theater and the Mandan-Bismarck Bus Line. He also managed the McDonald Hotel and was instrumental in bringing the Standard Oil refinery to Mandan.
Frank married Delilah Haggerman on July 19, 1929, in Mandan. He died Nov. 25, 1976. His legacy lives on in the Mandan 4th of July Rodeo.