No raining on this parade
Last updated 6/14/2022 at Noon
As if by a magic wand, Saturday’s steady and occasionally heavy rains were magically dispersed for the Sisters Rodeo Parade. A few drops, a fine mist made it through the wall of answered prayers intermittently, but not enough to dampen crowd enthusiasm — a smaller crowd than in past years, especially for the last rendition in 2019 which saw parade watchers stand two and three deep.
“Hey, it’s Oregon. This isn’t our first time at the rodeo,” quipped Dwight Tully from Prineville, who brought along a half dozen little cowgirls and cowboys, assorted kids, nephews and nieces. “We were ready for whatever Mother Nature would throw our way,” he said pointing to a roll of 37- gallon trash bags they were prepped to don had the need arose.
The Coburn family from La Pine was in flip-flops and tank tops, figuring if it rained, they’d not have so much to get wet.
“Life’s a beach in Sisters,” said mom, Cindy. “No way we miss this parade. My kids would never forgive me.” Dad, Wheeler, reckoned this is their seventh parade. “My father brought me to the parade when I was six and I never forgot it,” he said as he hoisted his own six-year-old, Maddy, on his shoulders for a better view.
They, like many spectators, came early to stake out not the premier curbside viewing spots as in the past, but to be under awnings and overhangs provided by several merchants on both sides of Cascade Avenue.
The Nations’ extended family from Springfield posted themselves on Fir Street as it intersects Cascade Avenue, fully exposed to the elements that were long on clouds, some quite dark, next-to-nothing winds, and a meandering drip.
“Rain?” they said collectively. “We’re from the Valley. We know something about rain and this isn’t it.”
They smiled in unison, all with cowboy hats and drover coats.
Durbin from Central Point, Oregon thought the best “float” was the stagecoach festooned with Oregon Ducks paraphernalia, an apparent dig at her friend Amy, an OSU alum.
There were 75 parade entrants, some with multiple vehicles like Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District, who had the biggest presence on the route. In all, some 100 various and sundry means of conveyance traveled the eight-block route, with horses dominating the numbers.
Rodeo royalty past and present was a clear crowd favorite, with queens and a few princesses stopping frequently to engage the crowd and pose for photos while promoting their own rodeos or county fairs. Outfitted in their full regalia, smiling broadly as they passed by, they lit up little girls, who were perhaps wishing that they too would someday sit atop a horse and ride down main street.
Parading this year was 92-year-old Deschutes Pioneer Queen, Shirley Kilpatrick, who beamed as she rode down the avenue garnering cheers. Born in 1930 in Terrebonne, Shirley has lived in Central Oregon her whole life. Growing up on the High Desert, she lived part-time with family in Fort Rock on the McCallum homestead, attending elementary school in Silver Lake. Her father later moved the family to 350 acres in Deschutes Junction off Deschutes Market Road. Shirley attended the Deschutes Market grade school and Young School east of Bend.
An unscientific poll suggested that only about 10 to 20 percent of parade watchers were also going to the rodeo itself, indicating the appeal of the parade itself as a stand-alone event.
The key takeaway from the parade was the crowds’ collective joy for the return to normalcy after a two-year hiatus. The word COVID was seldom uttered. Having the parade and rodeo back in action seemed to express a defeat of the pandemic and newfound freedom.
Sisters Rodeo Board members were awake on and off throughout the night checking apps and radar tracking. Rodger Dwight is the board member whose area of responsibility includes the parade. He was pleased with the outcome.
“I was going to drive my old Corvette in the parade but when I got up and saw the weather, I decided against it,” he said. “Turns out it would have been just fine.”
He noted that there were about half as many spectators as usual this year, yet the Board was grateful for the number of younger fans and families with kids that chanced the ominous skies.
“The looks on the faces made all the long work worth the while,” he said.
The parade was led by the three Sisters High School seniors supported by the Rodeo with scholarships.