News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Rodeo delivers on Western action

Like the many before it, the 2024 Sisters Rodeo left spectators thrilled and delighted. Despite an alarming situation Saturday night when a bull jumped out of the arena and ran through the Rodeo grounds (Click here to see related story.

), the crowds lucky enough to get a ticket for the sold out performances were treated to world class entertainment.

"I don't think most people see rodeo as being in the entertainment business," said legendary announcer Wayne Brooks.

Until 2000 rodeo was an old sport with a deeply rooted tradition and culture that is neither familiar nor comfortable to every American. That was the year after a major campaign by PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) went mainstream. The results have been nothing short of spectacular.

And never more so than the Sisters Rodeo which bills itself as The Biggest Little Show in the World. It would be hard to find anybody who disagrees.

"I believe it. It's not bragging. It's fact," said Kevin Duffy from Wenatchee, Washington, taking in his 10th Sisters rodeo.

His cousin, Willa Gardner of Burns, agreed.

"This is big time. Big names, big crowds, big money. And really big time fun," she offered.

The two of them were part of an extended family group of over 20 that meet up every year for a week of Sisters Rodeo.

Another cousin, Troy Carroll, from Yakima, Washington, told The Nugget: "There are a bunch of big time rodeos in Oregon – St. Paul, Pendleton, others – but, and I can't explain it, Sisters is the perfect combination of real Old West rodeo and the kind of big time excitement you'd get in Reno or Vegas or Fort Worth."

Starting Wednesday night with Xtreme Bulls and running though Sunday, fans took in five performances with some of the biggest names in rodeo. Sixth-ranked Chase Dougherty from Canby, Oregon, took home $6,111 with an 89.5 ride on bull Rock On. Also ranking sixth in the world, Sage Newman, a Montana cowboy, snagged $5,131 in saddle bronc riding on Spring Tour.

And so it went throughout all seven events – top competitors turning in impressive scores. The total payoff for the four days was a whopping $222,375.

"That's big money and that's why these cowboys and cowgirls come here," said Tom Waller of Redding, California, making his eighth Sisters Rodeo. "Follow the money."

Money talks. Sisters Rodeo put in $189,985 of the haul, with entry fees making up the rest. There are 790 PRCA sanctioned rodeos. Sisters is consistently in the top 100 rodeos by any measurement. Just ask third-ranked bareback rider, Dean Thompson of Vernal, Utah, scoring 88 points of Cowboy Fever and pocketing $5,957.

Or fourth-ranked Abby Phillips of Marshall, Texas, finishing in 17:35 seconds and taking home $6,768 for her barrel racing efforts. The most raucous crowd enthusiasm seems reserved for the barrel racers. The competition was intense with 15 riders crammed between 17:35 and 17:81 seconds.

It wasn't all heart-stopping action. The rodeo was surrounded by companion events that drew large numbers like the parade (Click here to see related story.). There was the Buckeroo Breakfast Sunday morning put on by Sisters Kiwanis. Hundreds and hundreds of hotcakes, eggs to order, smoked bacon and country sausages sizzled off the grill. It is a major fundraiser for the civic organization.

Since 1992, Sisters Rodeo Association has granted hundreds of thousands of dollars in college scholarships to Sisters High School graduates.

This year they expanded the number of scholarships offered and accepted applications from high school students in Sisters, Prineville, Redmond, Madras, and Bend-LaPine and from college freshmen who graduated from eligible high schools.

While the gritty competitors were at the heart of the entertainment, fans – most in their best Western attire – feasted at the dozen food offerings and wetted their whistles at portable watering holes with cold beer and sippin' whiskey.

It was a full-on party atmosphere throughout the week. It didn't end at the rodeo grounds. Eateries and drinking venues in Sisters were packed. Numerous contestants mingled with locals and visitors and within minutes friendships were formed.

Tales of rodeos past and to come filled the air along with a recounting of the most memorable moments - such as when famed rodeo clown JJ Harrison, holed up in his protective barrel, was knocked down not once but twice Wednesday, and knocked over and rolled around Sunday to roaring approval.

Not only were the contestants greeted affectionately but one of the most stirring moments of each performance was when young colts – future bucking horses – were set free with their mamas to run side by side around the arena.

Veterans were recognized with warmth. The pageantry of rodeo royalty led by Sisters Queen Destiny Wecks, joined by Miss Rodeo Oregon 2024 Abby Torgerson, and a stirring invocation by Brooks that preceded the signing of the national anthem, was rousing.

"Oh how I love this rodeo," said Melvin Streeter of Prineville, joined by 13 family members celebrating his 89th birthday.


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