top 10 rodeo

The Ellensburg Rodeo Board continues to work on plans to hold this year’s event over Labor Day weekend.

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The final decision will ultimately come out of Gov. Jay Inslee’s office, but the board of directors is optimistic there will be an Ellensburg Rodeo in 2021.

Despite the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and Sisters (Ore.) Rodeo cancelling for the second straight year due to COVID-19 public health restrictions, rodeos like Cheyenne Frontier Days and the Calgary Stampede plan to move forward in 2021.

“It’s a daily work in progress. We’ve been back and forth on all scenarios and percentages on what the state and county will allow and how we can do it. But we plan to have a rodeo this year,” Ellensburg Rodeo board president Jerry Doolin said. “There is a difference now for outdoor events as compared to indoor events.

“If we roll back to Phase 2, we may or may not be affected. But everything is changing daily and we have to revamp what we’re doing.”

Long-time arena director Rick Cole said the recent vaccinations have changed things for the better, but it remains a wait-and-see game for a board moving forward after cancelling the Ellensburg Rodeo for the first time since 1945 a year ago.

“We are continuing to be optimistic and selling tickets. We have an idea and expectation of what it is right now, but we know it’s going to be different come Labor Day,” Cole said. “They are having rodeos around the country, even in California, so it is different this year.

“The fact that Sisters cancelled doesn’t change our planning at this point. I think Cheyenne Frontier Days and the Calgary Stampede are showing a trend that is encouraging and positive.”

The rodeo is not just about arena capacity, although the higher percentage the better in terms of revenue. But board members are taking into consideration safety issues pertaining to the contestants, the loading and staging areas, the people working cattle or loading chutes, anything from volunteers to The Posse and inner workings of the four-day event.

They are also taking into account, the musical entertainment, the Behind the Chutes entertainment and concert crowd.

There is everything from parking to vendors to the Western and Indian villages and several other factors that make the Ellensburg Rodeo one of the top 10 rodeos in the country. All of which needs to fall under the guidelines of state safety protocols.

“We have been in constant communication with (Kittitas County Health Officer) Dr. Larson. I’ve started a separate committee that is working strictly on the things that need be done to meet safety guidelines and how we progress to it,” Doolin said.

The Class of 2020 induction into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colo., was postponed last year, but ProRodeo Hall of Fame organizers will usher in its most recent inductees on July 17, which is a nice indicator of good things to come.

One thing is for sure, the induction is a community honor and will be a chance for everyone involved to kick up their heels and celebrate.

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


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