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The one thing the COVID-19 pandemic has taught everyone is the valuable lesson of patience. Since the success of the Ellensburg Rodeo has been nearly 100 years in the making, one more year was just part of the plan.

Yet, finally, the Ellensburg Rodeo will take its place among the legendary rodeos across country, along with the cowboys and cowgirls that have made the sport what it is.


The ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy announced it will induct its Class of 2020 on July 15-17 in conjunction with the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Because of restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, inductions of the Class of 2020 were postponed. Now, Cody Ohl, Grated Coconut, Butch Kirby, Jim Sutton Jr., Sunni Deb Backstrom, Randy Witte, the Ellensburg Rodeo and Martha Josey — will be inducted on July 17.

“It is so great to be able to plan and finally hold this event to induct this amazing class of rodeo legends,” Hall of Fame director Kent Sturman said. “We are so thankful that the COVID restrictions are easing up in the state of Colorado and El Paso County, which will allow us to host the event here in Colorado Springs.

“We are hopeful that restrictions will ease up more as we move closer to the dates so that our Induction Weekend will look very similar to events of the past.”


Since it is an outdoor event, the number of people and supporters will not be limited under the health department guidelines. Ellensburg will have its contingent. The 17-member board of directors is scheduled to attend, along with several past directors and other honored guests.

“(The induction) shows the dedication our rodeo board and community has to providing a quality rodeo. It’s pretty amazing to be honored this way as a community,” board president Jerry Doolin said. “It’s not about the rodeo committee. We couldn’t do what we do without volunteers and all the other help. It’s totally a community thing and it’s a really big deal.”


Long-time former board president and former Justin Committeeman of the Year Joel Smith was all smiles. It’s been a long time coming in his opinion, and it’s finally here, he said.

“I think it’s great (the Hall of Fame) is finally getting to some of the old rodeos, and we’ve always considered ourselves an old rodeo,” said Smith, who was named Justin Committeeman of the Year in 2007. “They certainly deserve it. I’m just really proud the direction it’s taken.

“The vision those guys had in 1923 putting something together that eventually made Ellensburg famous. If you go on the road to these PRCA conventions and you say you’re from Ellensburg, they know all about our rodeo. We are really are well known around the country and it’s pretty special to finally be inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.


The PRCA has recognized three Ellensburg committee members with the Justin Committeeman of the Year Award over the years — Ken MacRae (1998), Joel Smith (2007), Steve Alder (2013) — but the hall of fame induction is a combination of hard-working men and women providing a quality product, MacRae said.

“I’ve expected (the induction) for a long time,” said MacRae, who also sits on the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame board. “It’s a big honor and well deserved, I think.

“The work goes all the way back to 1923. The committee over the years has been dedicated to doing the best they could to make the Ellensburg Rodeo something special.”


The Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo is scheduled for July 14-17 at the Norris Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs. Like a lot of events last year, it was postponed due to the pandemic. The rodeo, which paid out more than $280,000 in 2019, draws the best cowboys and cowgirls in North America.

“Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo is extremely proud to be considered the PRCA's hometown rodeo," said Mike McCoy, president of the PPOB Rodeo. “And as such, we welcome the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and its inductees to the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo to be our guests to celebrate their huge milestone of being inducted into the Hall.”

The golf tournament, a fundraiser for the Hall of Fame, will kick off the weekend at Cheyenne Shadows Golf Course on Thursday, July 15, while the Cowboy Ball will be Friday, July 16.

Rodney Harwood: award-winning journalist and columnist. Lover of golf and the written word. I can be reached at

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