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It has been too long, hasn’t it? I miss rodeo. My friends miss rodeo. Contestants miss rodeo.

Now, don’t get me wrong, life is good despite the COVID-19 pandemic. My family and my friends are happy and healthy. There is far more to life than Shane Hanchey roping one in 7.1-seconds, Ivy Conrado-Saebens rounding the third barrel with a lead or Caleb McMillian clinging to a slim hundred-dollar advantage in the All-Around. But it doesn’t mean rodeo’s not important. Rodeo is important. For me, it’s an outlet for entertainment and awe. For the rodeo committees, it’s a way to be a staple in the communities they serve. For the contestants, it’s a livelihood.

My comments aren’t from the perspective of an investigative journalist. Many already know I’m not a full-time reporter who spends 365 days a year researching stories. Today’s words come from a fan who knows cowboys and cowgirls need to hold on to their way of life … and let’s be honest, there is nothing like a good weekend of rodeo.

You know, by this time of the spring, we have whetted our whistle with big-time winter paydays and a good start to the California Run. We are ready to kick off the summer rodeo season with Memorial Day, which around our neck of the woods means a trip to Coulee City’s Last Stand Rodeo. But it won’t be the same this year. Coulee City? Postponed. Well, what about Sisters? Cancelled until 2021. Reno? Nope. The Fourth of July trifecta of Molalla, Eugene and St. Paul or the Toppenish Rodeo along I-82? No sir. Even Calgary? Yep.

Let’s keep it within Kittitas County. Cle Elum Roundup in late July called it quits for 2020 just a few days ago. Last month’s annual college rodeo — and CWU Rodeo’s big fundraising silent auction — was shut down. Shoot, all of college rodeo called it quits. The Bares and Broncs? Postponed until hopefully another weekend this summer.

This is an unprecedented event in my 40-some-odd years in this arena of life and my 20-plus years as an official rodeo fan. I’ve talked to many fans, contestants and committee members in an unofficial, friendly capacity. I can say without a doubt that people want a rodeo that balances safety and fun, paydays and cleanliness, options for space with the ability to be close to friends.

I listened and read an interview that PRCA CEO George Taylor gave with the Cowboy Channel and he made a good point acknowledging the rodeos we lost for this year but tipped his hat to the rodeos still holding on.

“The most exciting thing I can tell you is while it seems like we’ve missed a lot of rodeos, we still have about 90 percent of the payouts left in the season,” he said.

And what can rodeos expect?

“We’re going to have to really take that responsibility seriously as we begin to rodeo again, so that nobody stops us, even though we are frustrated with a lot of those things. It’s really going to be about where we use masks, how we disinfect, how we compartmentalize different production personnel and really strive to keep ourselves safe so that we don’t have any COVID instances as a result.”

That includes Ellensburg and I’m thrilled to see that our rodeo is preparing like any other Labor Day weekend prior to 2020. My anticipation for Labor Day weekend is the same as it always is at this time of the year, but certainly has an added injection of hope that we can pull this off with the challenge of this pandemic.

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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