The secret to Sisters Rodeo’s success
Last updated 5/31/2022 at Noon
The Sisters Rodeo, billed as the Biggest Little Show in the World, has a cast of hundreds: 11 board members, 200-plus association members, and a small army of volunteers. Given that it generally comes off without a hitch, it is easy to assume that it just magically happens, year after year. As in 80 years. It doesn’t.
The whole kit and kaboodle is run as an all-volunteer organization, with the exception of a paid part-time ticket agent. It’s about as much community engagement as can be found in a town well-known for community support. The Sisters Folk Festival by comparison has a paid staff of six for its three-day event and year-round programming.
There are the obvious volunteers — the ushers, parking attendants, ticket takers — and then the ones rarely seen. Those are the folks who mow the fields, paint the fences, maintain the stands, and change the light bulbs.
This year’s Rodeo is the 80th, the one that was cancelled in 2020 and then again in 2021 due to COVID-19. Now, as it is nearing opening night on Wednesday, June 8, the hurried hum of the machinery that brings it to life can be heard in the office on Cascade Avenue and at the grounds six miles east of town.
Cowboys have just drawn to see on which bulls’ or horses’ backs they’ll hope manage to stay for eight seconds, the minimum time to score points.
In barns and sheds and garages all over Sisters Country, fine tuning is happening for the 75 Sisters Rodeo Parade entrants that run the gamut from rodeo royalty to wagons, music, and costumed riders, to classic cars and much more. The parade, for many, is the quintessential event if for no other reason than it’s free and the youngest of children can appreciate it.
Look for large numbers of grandparents who make the parade trek, often from great distances. Rodeo is Americana and Sisters is a near-perfect stage for nostalgia seekers eager to escape more complicated lives.
The campgrounds are booked solid, as are the motels, lodges, and B&Bs. The merchants are all stocked up, worried whether they will have enough staff. It’s all hands on deck for the City’s Public Works Department and the sheriff’s station. Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District will have vehicles in the parade and extra staff. Rodeo week is a big deal in Sisters Country, promoted statewide.
Wednesday night is Extreme Bulls at 6:30 p.m. The name says it all. Thursday is “slack” for preliminary competition, or a day off, possibly time for some cowboys to nurse the previous night’s encounter with 1,600 pounds of highly perturbed cow.
Friday night at 7 p.m. is the first night of the whole enchilada, a full-plate offering of bronc riding, roping, steer wrestling, barrel racing and more bulls. There will be a special entertainment event with Felix Santana and his Lusitano and Iberian warmblood cross, Gallahan. The duo will be performing a series of movements with roots in classical horsemanship also known as haute école or alta escuela training.
Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m. the Rodeo Parade makes its way from Pine Street down Cascade Avenue and ends an hour later at Larch Street. The popular event embellishes the Rodeo, while at the same time enthralling locals of all ages.
The 2022 Grand Marshall is John Rogers. John started out helping with parking during the rodeo as a member, was eventually elected a director holding the title of treasurer for many years. He and wife, Sharie, have attended Sisters Rodeo for almost 50 years.
Friday’s program repeats Saturday at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. The competition heats up as points are awarded and visions of sharing in the $80,000 purse increase in reality or dissolve into hopes that the next rodeo will be the one that earns the bacon.
Rodeo Clown favorite J.J. Harrison will be making his 14th Sisters Rodeo appearance, bantering with announcers Wayne Brooks and Curt Robinson and whipping up the crowds — the latter not an especially hard job. Rodeo is fun for all, big-time fun. Well, maybe not for a cowboy who just got tossed from a bucking beast. Or a roper with a false start, or racer who knocked over a barrel or two on an otherwise run to the fastest time of the day.
Most cowboys and stock handlers, just finishing the Great Northwest Pro Rodeo in Klamath Falls, will converge on Sisters before heading to the Colville Pro Rodeo in Washington. They are an approachable bunch and can be found around town after performances doing what cowboys do — comparing horses and the libations, with some dancing and guitar strumming thrown in.
On Sunday at 1 p.m. the competition is hotter yet for those still with points on the board. The cows and horses are no more tamed, possibly even more irritated. By 4 p.m. it all comes to an almost anticlimactic ending. Trailers are hitched up, the cowboys and cowgirls hit the road, and spectators begin their year-long yearning until — not by magic — it all happens again.
For the official schedule and free shuttle bus information, visit http://www.sistersrodeo.com.