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It’s been 23 years in the making — gathering of historic photographs and artifacts, showcasing the best cowboys and cowgirls in history, finding a permanent home, and shaping the legend that is the Ellensburg Rodeo.

Here in the midst of one of the most, deadly pandemics in the history of America, the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame is finally ready to give Ellensburg and rodeo fans a glimpse of its efforts.

Committee members had planned a big to-do with a private screening, then bust open the doors open wide to the 2,200-square foot space in what used to be the Downtown Pharmacy. But as it stands, with Kittitas County moving into Phase 3 of the governor’s reopening plan, the Hall of Fame will roll with a soft opening from 3 to 7 p.m. on July 3 at the Western Culture and Art Center, 416 N. Pearl St.

SOFT OPENING

Despite all that is going on across the country, the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame will be open by the Fourth of July as America celebrates is independence.

“It’s amazing that after almost 23 years, the public is finally going to get to see all the stuff we’ve been collecting.” said Joel Smith, who along with Mike Allen, is a charter member of the original board of directors. “It’s pretty special for us, especially in this new space.

“Having the Rodeo Hall of Fame here in Pearl Street, along with the Clymer Gallery and Gallery One and the other downtown establishments is just the place to be.”

PEARL STREET

The Ellensburg Rodeo will be inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs later this year and the local hall of fame has been working hard to provide the national facility with Ellensburg décor for its display. But here in Central Washington, on Pearl Street in the historic downtown, they were able to give one of the top 10 rodeos in America its due.

As people enter the Western Culture and Art Center, they are greeted by a central information station, directing them to the various attractions in the John Ramsay Building. As they make their way through to the brick entrance way to the hall of fame, they are immersed in the first of 14 story displays — the story of rodeo and the four-foot tall Harry L. Anderson trophy, featuring the names of all-around winners from 1949 and all the way to Trevor Brazil, who won back-to-back all-around titles at Ellensburg in 2006-07.

RODEO SHOWCASE

Committee members didn’t want to damage the prestigious trophy, so it was retired to a safe place for the past 13 years. But it now takes its place in the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame where it sits in the entryway, welcoming guests and fans.

“We used professional designers to design colors and composition of the room and how each object would be displayed,” charter board member Mike Allen said. “We’ve all walked into those funky old local museums where stuff is stacked up and it’s a little dusty and the same display you saw five years ago.

“Our displays are mobile and we’ll be able to have shows and special showings. This is one of what I would call professional caliber halls of fame in the country. I would say this is one of the top 10 halls of fame in the country. It’s visual, not virtual and I think that sets us apart.”

They didn’t just drag décor and photos from the upstairs storage space and randomly set it up. The room flows in a counter-clock direction through each of the 14 display showcases. It begins with the story of rodeo, then shifts to the historic story of the Ellensburg Rodeo. The room features Cowgirl Rodeo Riders and that long history.

ALL-AROUND CHAMPS

It features the all-around champions, the rough stock, roping, steer wrestling, Rodeo Royalty, rodeo families, posse and of course the many volunteers that make rodeo what it is. It pays tribute to the Yamaka Nation and the various animal competitors. Interestingly enough, the Ellensburg Rodeo goes into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame Class of 2020 with Calgary Rodeo Co. horse Grated Coconut, a longtime competitor in Ellensburg.

The Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame also features the iconic photography of John P. Foster and other local photographers.

GIVE SOMETHING BACK

“I am so excited to give back to the people that have donated so much to us over the years to make this happen,” board member Marie Smith said. “This is something we can all be proud of; I think it turned better than I thought.

“To have it here on Pearl Street huge. We’re in the center of the community and we feel connected to our community, which is what it’s all about.”

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