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Entrepreneur helped bring Ellensburg rodeo into a new era

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Posted: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 12:00 am

ELLENSBURG - Northwest restaurant entrepreneur and rancher Stuart Anderson made Ellensburg his adopted home in the early 1970s, establishing a ranch in the west valley to advertise his Stuart Anderson Black Angus Cattle Company franchise. An active Ellensburg Rodeo sponsor and host, Anderson was instrumental in televising the Ellensburg Rodeo.

He was born in Tacoma, of Swedish and Scottish parents, Dr. Roger and Susan Carver Anderson. Although Anderson aspired to be a cattle rancher from his early youth, his life initially took a different course. After graduation from Tacoma's Stadium High School, he served as a tank driver in General Patton's famed World War II Army Corps. Returning home, he bought and managed a hotel and restaurant in what he describes as a "rough and tumble Seattle neighborhood." This ultimately led to the first Stuart Anderson Black Angus restaurant, a Western-themed steak house that grew to phenomenal success throughout the American West in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s.

During these decades, Stuart Anderson shepherded his Black Angus Cattle Company to encompass 122 steakhouses, employing more than 10,000 people and annually grossing $260 million dollars. Known for quality, affordable beef served in a friendly, Western-themed setting, Anderson's restaurants perfectly dovetailed his lifelong ambition to own and to run a cattle ranch.

His 2,600-acre Black Angus Cattle Company Ranch, perched alongside Interstate 90 in western Kittitas County, soon became a showplace and calling card for his growing restaurant chain. Here, in the 1970s and '80s, Anderson learned and honed irrigation skills and raised registered and commercial cattle, sheep and horses.

The adopted Eastern Washingtonian immediately became involved in the Ellensburg Rodeo. In 1972, Anderson invited friends and rodeo volunteers to a Western-style barbeque at his Black Angus Ranch "party barn," an event that continues as a rodeo tradition to this day. Anderson also served as the Ellensburg Rodeo Parade's grand marshal; in 1984 his Clydesdale pulling horses were featured in the Ellensburg Rodeo's six-horse hitch exhibition event.

"Some of Stuart Anderson's greatest contributions to our rodeo," states Hall of Fame board member Joel Smith, "were his sponsorships, and especially his promotions televising the Ellensburg Rodeo."

Prior to 1982, the Ellensburg Rodeo was one of the few top North American rodeos that had not been televised. "Stuart made it happen in 1982," Smith recalls, "with a generous prize purse supplement, a television advertising contract, and numerous regional promotions."

Meanwhile, Anderson continued his business career and became involved in myriad professional and community service endeavors. He wrote a book, "Here's The Beef!" and served on the boards of Washington State 4-H, Washington Restaurant Association, Senior Housing Assistance Group, and Washington State Cancer Drive. He was also voted National Restaurant Association "Man of the Year."

Anderson, now in his '80s, is retired and lives with his wife Helen in the California desert. They enjoy entertaining their family and friends, and traveling across North America in their motor home. The Andersons will leave early from an August trans-Canadian railroad train excursion to attend Stuart's induction into the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame.

Stuart Anderson joins a stellar group. Past Inductees to the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame are Larry Mahan, Casey Tibbs, Bill Linderman, Bill McMacken, Dean Oliver, Tom Ferguson, Clint Corey, Jim Shoulders, Pete Knight, Charmayne James, Joe Beaver, Rod Lyman, Smokey Kayser, Deb Copenhaver, Gene Miles, Maude Barnett, Frank Wood, Larry Wyatt, Kenny Stanton, Joe Alexander, Jimmy Cooper, Marty Wood, Allen Bach, Catherine Bach, Ellensburg Rodeo Wranglerettes, Kittitas County Roping Club, Moomaw-Bernard Stock Contractors, "Badger Mountain," Joe Kelsey Rodeo Stock Company, "Widow Maker," "Red One," Beard Rodeo Company, Harry Charters, "Mickey," Harry Knight, Red and Rose Wall, Everett Bowman, Montie Montana, Yakama Indian Nation, George Prescott, John P. Foster, DeVere Helfrich, John Ludtka, Ellensburg Rodeo Posse, King County Posse, Bob Swaim, Phil Gardenhire, Buff Brady, Jr., Loyd Ketchum, Berenice Blair Dossey Bolen, Christensen Brothers, Harry Vold, Wick Peth, Leonard Davis, Dr. H. F. Pfenning, Cliff Kaynor, Harry Anderson, Bosque Boy, "0," Scamper, War Paint, the "Spirit of the Trail Rodeo Pageant", and the Anderson, Cooke, Driver, Ferguson, Fitterer, Gage, McEwen, McManamy, Minor, Morrison, Thomas, and Schnebly families.

The Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame Association formed in 1997 to preserve the history and traditions of the Ellensburg Rodeo. Inductees are chosen only after careful consultation with old-timers and other local rodeo experts. Hall of Fame Board members are Mike Allen, Janie Charlton, Rochelle Cramer, Joe Crawford, Tim Eckert, Barbara Foster, Bob Kelley, Ken MacRae, Chuck Monroe, Bertha Morrison, Teri Phillip, Joel Smith, Julie Virden, Jack Wallace, and Stacy Young.

Hall of Fame artifacts are on display each year in the new Western Village Hall of Fame storefront (at the north entrance of the rodeo grounds) and the Ellensburg Rodeo and Chamber of Commerce Headquarters in the Driver Home on North Main Street. ERHOF assists in organizing displays in the Kittitas County Heritage Center, underneath the restored main rodeo grandstand of the Kittitas County Fairgrounds. The Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame aims to maintain a year-round museum of rodeo history in Ellensburg.

Michael Allen is Professor of History at the University of Washington,Tacoma, and a historian for the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame Association. He has written five books, including "Rodeo Cowboys in the North American Imagination" (U Nevada Press, 1998) and "A Patriot's History of the United States" (Penguin, 2004).

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