By Don Nelson
They’ll be back in the saddle again at the Methow Valley Rodeo grounds come Memorial Day weekend.
Dennis Gardner, president of the sponsoring Methow Valley Horsemen (MVH) board of directors, said this week the rodeo will be on May 29-30 (Saturday and Sunday), with the usual lineup of bull riding, ranch saddle bronc riding and barrel racing, as well as junior rodeo events.
Gardner said he anticipates that the Labor Day Rodeo will also return.
Both the Memorial Day and Labor Day Methow Valley Rodeos were canceled last year because of COVID protocols – the first time since the annual event was launched in 1971 that there were no rodeos staged.
Gardner said the rodeo will likely have extra hand-washing stations, and that attendees will be encouraged to maintain appropriate social distancing. He said rodeo organizers would not require attendees to wear masks.
Under the state’s existing Phase 3 guidelines, outdoor sporting events are limited to 400 people.
As for competitors, Gardner said “it’s anyone’s guess” as to who might show up. Gardner has been contacting potential competitors. “Some called back, some did not,” he said. “We expect to have enough.”
Gardner said the rodeo organization is not suffering a big financial hit from the loss of last year’s events. “We luckily just lease the grounds,” he said. “We’re just hoping the sponsors will help us.”
Last year’s rodeo royalty – Queen Jadyn Mitchell and Princess Elizabeth Clark – were not able to take part in or promote the events. But they will be back this year, Gardner said. Both are juniors at Liberty Bell High School.
In 2015, the Labor Day Rodeo was called off because of poor air quality conditions in the valley resulting from wildland fires. The 2015 decision to cancel the Labor Day Rodeo came shortly after three firefighters died when a sudden wind shift in the newly ignited Twisp River Fire overran the trapped crew. During the days that followed, the towns of Twisp and Winthrop were under evacuation advisories and smoke from wildfires remained at levels considered unhealthy for outdoor activity.
The Methow Valley Rodeo was launched in 1971 by Bill Flagg, Vernon Bame, Don Dagnon, Tom Graves, Al Gardner, and Sandy Haase. The first rodeo arena was on the Sunny M Ranch, where it was staged for 10 years. The rodeo later moved to the Brengman Road site at Moccasin Lake Ranch.
The rodeo starts at 1 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for kids ages 7-12, and free for kids 6 and younger. For more information, visit www.methowvalleyrodeo.com.