Well, it’s here. The Cle Elum Roundup is upon us and that is incredible. This strengthens the western way of life in Kittitas County. At first, I surmised that it acted as a solid warmup for the Ellensburg Rodeo just six weeks away, but to be honest, that doesn’t do any justice to the Roundup.

It is its own being. It’s there to add another professional payday for circuit cowboys. That’s right, professional option. After four years as an amateur rodeo on the Pro West circuit, the Cle Elum Roundup made the jump to the PRCA ranks.

This being the fifth year of the Roundup, fans can expect to see much of the same — a growing purse, packed stands and quality talent that probably lives just down the road a bit. Last year’s purse of $29,500 is sure to grow as a growing sponsor list and more publicity now that it’s a pro rodeo will help the rodeo eclipse $30,000. It’ll be on the smaller side of Columbia River Circuit rodeos, but I expect a purse to grow as the years go on.

Again, this is good for rodeo and this is great for Kittitas County. I continually worry about losing what makes the county special as growth overtakes range land and hay fields. Rodeo, which brings in tourists from within and well beyond the county lines, showcases not only a sporting routine, but a lifestyle that’s more than a hobby to many, it’s a profession and a way to put food on the table.

I commend the Cle Elum Roundup board and both Summit Pro Rodeo and Daniel Beard Rodeos. Beard of course is part owner of Summit and along with Toppenish this year, has made it a point to add to the professional ranks quality rodeos. I’m thrilled to see two more options like Cle Elum and Toppenish — easy drives for our county rodeo fans.

At this point, I’m not quite sure how many familiar — or at least regional professional names — we’ll see on the day sheet on Friday and Saturday. We’ll see plenty of names we know well, but I’m interested to see how many ropers and riders will make the trip to the Northwest. In terms of circuit cowboys, many of them will be in Elgin, Ore., this weekend. In terms of amateur athletes, some will be in Clayton, north of Spokane, while others might be in Longview, Long Beach or down south in Madras, Ore. As we all know, the Roundup is near dead center in Washington right off I-90 and that might be close enough for those amateurs who also hold pro cards.

Let’s look at a few cowboys who added more to the coffers heading into this weekend’s slate of rodeos. Ellensburg’s Minor brothers pocketed another couple of checks, winning go-round money in Nampa, Idaho, to the tune of $1,894, and picking up $4,160 apiece at Edmonton’s KDays. The brothers are in the hunt for a $50,000 payday tonight at Salt Lake City’s Days of ’47 rodeo. It isn’t a PRCA-sanctioned rodeo, but 50-grand is 50-grand. There’s no question if you’re going once the invitation is extended.

Jake Minor, heeling with Jeff Flenniken, again added some cash to his pocket after a $1,136 average payday in Nampa as well.

The big one obviously this week is “The Daddy” in Cheyenne and it’s $830,000 payday. Let’s put that into perspective. There were a couple of cowboys and barrel racer Meka Farr who earned more than $10,000 in Nampa, a $401,000 rodeo, which by the way is a huge rodeo. So, if you can win 10 grand there, think about what you can take away at a rodeo twice that size.

Whether it’s a Cheyenne-huge payday or a Cle Elum Roundup “welcome to the main table” chance at a check, there’s plenty for the casual and die-hard fan this weekend.

Jon Guddat covers rodeo — from the kids to the kids at heart — with a weekly rodeo column in the Daily Record. Contact Jon with story ideas at jonguddat@yahoo.com.

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