2023 Marshal, Grand Lady are a perfect team for it
Winthrop 2023 ’49er Days Grand Lady Judy and Marshal Aaron Lee Burkhart are a perfect fit for the job. They have been a team since they first met almost 40 years ago while team roping in the arena located at the present day Mazama Ranch House.
Judy and her sister Sunny operated Chechaquo Ranch Bed & Breakfast in the ranch house, offering a riding stable, and team roping in the arena. Aaron Lee, who grew up in the house where they now live and operate Early Winters Outfitting, had been around horses and cows all his life. The opportunity to practice team roping five minutes from his home was a boon — the chance to meet a classy blonde horsewoman, a bonus.
Judy was a young lady from the Midwest when she came to visit a friend in the Methow Valley. As is so often the case, she fell in love with the valley and, after her college years, packed up and moved here. Her sister followed. They were no strangers to horseback riding. In fact, they both performed synchronized riding with Leather & Lace Drill Team in their home state of Illinois.
Aaron Lee’s father Aaron bought the original Tom Sloane homestead HES 200 in 1958. Aaron Lee learned to ride, break horses, chase cows, and buck hay from a young age. He graduated from Liberty Bell High School and went to college at Eastern Washington University. When he met Judy, he found an ideal match to share the lifestyle they both loved.
Well known and storied in Mazama history, Jack Wilson and Roy Kumm mentored Aaron Lee in packing skills. In 1982, Aaron Lee bought Jack Wilson’s outfitting business. As a team, Judy and he work together to take hunters, anglers, photographers, and recreational riders on pack trips into the backcountry such as the Pasayten Wilderness. Judy prepares meals on the rides, including frying up fresh caught cutthroat or rainbow trout.
Judy took leatherworking classes, honed her skills, and began making saddles using patterns and artwork of her own design. Her expertise working with leather has been utilized extensively on their own tack. With 70 horses and mules in their remuda, there is no shortage of leather repair to be done.
The Burkhart place is a constant bustle of activity. Each year new foals and calves are born. This year five babies are expected from the mares. The colts are half draft and half quarter horse. The beef cattle are Angus.
In addition, Judy milks three Guernsey cows who produce an A2 milk that is digestible by lactose intolerant folks. Judy uses the milk to make cheese, ice cream, and for baking. Soon summer trail rides will be offered to visitors. They are thankful that they always have good help from capable wranglers. In addition, Aaron Lee operates a firefighting business during the fire season.
When asked what they like best about their lifestyle, Judy quickly replied, “Everything we do is together as a team doing what we both love.”
The Burkharts have a long history of participating in the Ride to the Rendezvous and the full menu of activities that take place during Winthrop’s ’49er Days. They provide several horses for participants to ride and give support to them during the ride. Judy cooks for the five days of the ride and both she and Aaron Lee will participate in the barbecue and Dutch oven cooking at the Outfitter Dinner hosted by Washington Outfitters and Guides Association (WOGA) on Saturday (May 13).
They are honored to have been chosen to represent the community as the Grand Lady and Marshal of the celebration of Western heritage. Judy expressed their feelings: “Aaron and I really appreciate the opportunity to thank the people who promote and support our Western town and the ranchers, outfitters, and farmers that are living here and still making a living.”