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The year that set out to be one of excitement and part of a dream come true, cascaded into one of heartbreak with the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Rodeos across the country were hit with the domino effect, canceling one-by-one right up until the Ellensburg Rodeo board of directors made its decision to cancel the rodeo for the first time in 76 years.


But that feeling of great despair, turned into a sigh of relief on Wednesday for three young women when the board of directors made its historic announcement to extend the reign of the 2020 Royal Court to 2021.

“I was nervous (last night), but we all knew the board had our best interest at heart,” said 2020 Queen Cora Clift, who along with princesses Abbey Roberts and Clara Van Orman, attended the board of directors meeting.

“Mostly I’m grateful because it’s a really big honor that we get to be a part of it next year. My mom (Bridgit Clift) and I went back through the records and found out there’s never been a Royal Court where all three girls were extended another year, so we’re making history and very grateful.”


Where the decision to cancel the 97th Ellensburg Rodeo for the first time since 1944 was excruciating, the decision to extend the dream of three young women was simple. It was the right thing to do.

“The first rodeo that got canceled was Toppenish (in March). From there we were crossing off a rodeo a week that we were planning to attend, and that was really difficult,” said Van Orman, who just passed her National Council Licensure Examination to receive her BSN-RN degree.

“As the year progressed, we understood this new world we’re living in is not going to go away overnight and that safety is the most important factor. Last night, the rodeo board resurrected our dreams and our goal of representing the Ellensburg Rodeo.”

The move to extend the reign of the Royal Court is historic and unprecedented Royal Court director Julie Virden said.

“This is a new situation we find ourselves in. While we don’t have any former experiences to help guide us. It’s clear to all of us that these young women deserve the opportunity to continue through 2021,” Virden said. “Their commitment to promote the Ellensburg Rodeo and our community is apparent and I applaud the court and their families for the incredible dedication and support.”


The Royal Court promotes the Ellensburg Rodeo, attending other PRCA rodeos, parades and celebrations throughout the year. They were scheduled to go to the Calgary Stampede, but the international trip was scrapped when one of the largest rodeos in the world was forced to cancel to help control the global pandemic.

“It was heartbreaking, hearing at least twice a week another rodeo was canceled,” Roberts said. “When we heard that Ellensburg was canceled, it was bad. It kind of felt like our dreams were being deferred.

“But at the same time, we understood that rodeo boards were just doing what they needed to do to address safety protocols.”

They did what they could locally, reading to elementary school students, taking part in the Spirit of the West, and most recently, showing off the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame during the soft opening at the new location.

On that note, the Royal Court will be a part of the Ellensburg Rodeo’s induction into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colo. Ellensburg was part of the 2020 class into the national hall of fame, but the induction ceremony was postponed until next year.


The contingent of representatives from Ellensburg will make the trip to Colorado next summer, then light up the night in celebration Labor Day weekend with a grand celebration when rodeo returns.

“It’s great opportunity and another way to promote our rodeo. It’s pretty awesome that we got inducted and we’ll be able to be a part of the ceremony,” Clift said. “I’m happy that we can make it a big ordeal with video, past directors, and give everybody in town a chance to participate. It’s super exciting.”

Roberts agreed. “Getting inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame is something we’ve worked for so many years, and I think it’s more than well deserved,” she said. “We are all hoping to be a part of it next August.

“We had a chance to see the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame in town and its incredible. It’s super, super cool and there’s a lot of history in that room.”


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