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home : arts & entertainment : arts & entertainment May 2, 2016

5/28/2013 1:20:00 PM
Volunteers make rodeo world go 'round
A volunteer crew puts together a stand at Sisters Rodeo Arena. photo by Gary Miller
+ click to enlarge
A volunteer crew puts together a stand at Sisters Rodeo Arena. photo by Gary Miller

Ten years ago, a leader of a major West Coast rodeo offered to teach Sisters Rodeo how to run the rodeo more efficiently.

"Oh," said Sisters Rodeo President Glenn Miller, "is yours an all-volunteer rodeo, too?"

Thrown off balance, the other man shuffled back in surprise and shock. His retort: "Maybe we should get you to come advise us."

There are few rodeos in the caliber of Sisters that are managed by volunteers, mostly members of Sisters Rodeo Association. The 175-member association is very familiar with other organizations asking how it's done, how to keep members enthusiastic and involved. The rodeo leadership can't explain it, but they, like the membership, have a passion for this rodeo.

Every year in March or April, depending upon weather conditions, "work parties" begin at Sisters Rodeo grounds. This year alone, up to 60 members a week have built a permanent booth and storage building, installed new stairs, replaced 117 seating boards in the bleachers and raised four sections of the bleacher structures.

That doesn't include the annual maintenance of 40 acres in mowing, invasive plant control, road repair and general upkeep. And paint, lots of paint, chipped and fried from variations in a high desert climate. A crew of women spend their Saturdays restoring the beauty of the venue to what it was just a year ago. They say they sometimes "dream paint" during the spring.

In the downtown Sisters ticket office, four to six women spend six days a week selling tickets. Some of this begins in November and continues until they move the "office" to the rodeo grounds on Friday afternoon of the rodeo.

The highlight of visible improvements has been the all-volunteer clearing, trenching, installing an irrigation system and planting the five acres of the rodeo grounds that borders Highway 20. The project was finished in September 2012, so it would be ready for contestant camping during the rodeo. Sisters Kiwanis Club has also added more fencing for the Buckaroo Breakfast.

Passersby express appreciation for the beauty of the roadside attraction, commenting that it is as nice as a golf course. How have rodeo members responded? They added four golf holes for the contestants', and their own, entertainment.

The membership has a large number of people with specialized skills from construction to electronics, from art to marketing to advertising. The association has benefited over 73 years from the attitude that everyone is there to work.

In an association with no prima donnas, any Saturday will find a rodeo queen and her mom weeding and planting, board members with hammers in hand, retirees digging, mowing and raking, all with the intention of making the site as appealing as its mountain backdrop for the over 26,000 fans who will arrive soon.

Four hundred contestants are greeted with gift bags that are packaged by members, filled with helpful travel items from chap stick to baseball caps.

Rodeo members do eat well. Under the guidance of Hans Teufl, a retired professional chef, a sturdy group of four members prepares lunch every Saturday. Their average age is about 79 years.

During the rodeo, the members then work most of the volunteer assignments. The rodeo also supports local organizations who raise money for their own non-profit organizations by staffing a wide variety of service positions.

Not to beat a dead horse, but it is worth repeating: This is an organization that truly feels like a family to every member who shows up, gets dirty, goes home tired and sore, and then is rewarded with more jobs during rodeo week. According to its committed, exhausted and happy members, there is just nothing else like Sisters Rodeo. The results are reflected in the success of their rodeo.

Sisters Rodeo has five performances on June 5 and 7-9.

For tickets and information, call the ticket hotline at 541-549-0121 or 1-800-827-7522, or visit the ticket office, 220 W. Cascade Ave. in Sisters.

For information,

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