Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo
The Central Point Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo is part of the PRCA Columbia Circuit and is presented by AmericanWest Bank! The event takes place at the Jackson County Expo the evenings of May 30, 31 and June 1. Cowboys (and girls) compete in several events, including bull riding, saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, steer wrestling, barrel racing, tie down roping and team roping.
The Wild rogue Pro rodeo has been at the Expo for several years now and there have been some exciting times there. This rodeo boasts the only recorded 100-point bull ride in the history of the sport, something that took place more than 20 years ago. That was on a bull named “Wolf Man” owned by John Growney and was ridden by Wade Lesley.
The rodeo was traditionally held in October and was the site of the Columbia River finals for several years. When the PRCA changed it’s date for qualifying for the NFR to Oct. 1, Wild Pro Rodeo saw a decline in number of entries and therefore made a decision to move the rodeo to the 1st week end after Memorial Day. This happened about 6 years ago and has become more successful each year. The rodeo for this area started many years ago at the old Posse grounds on Sage Road.
It might be interesting to look at the Rodeo, not from the perspective of the fan in the bleachers, but from some of the participants, people who make the show happen. Jason Mattox is one of the board members of the Rodeo, partly because he spent 14 years astride a big, snot-breathing, ill-tempered 1900-lb bull and can offer suggestions that make the experience better for fans and for event-goers alike. Jason was one of those individuals that loved to go to work every day, even if he did get thrown in the dirt every time he did. A workday for him lasted only eight seconds and that was if he did everything right and the bull didn’t do something unexpected. He was also considered one of the more successful riders, which often equates to not losing money on the circuit.
It was his life in competition that taught him what works and what doesn’t. He found things that please the crowd and lobbies to get the local committee to work those into the mix. He also knows what makes the cowboys feel welcome and want to return for another show.
When a person loves the work he does, it makes for an enjoyable time for everyone. Jason is one of those people. He feels very fortunate to be able to live a life of relative freedom, to have a good career, to do something for the community and readily admits he is “honored to be a part of it.”
Bull riding is one of the most popular events in rodeo. Probably because of the fast and furious nature of the event and the relative danger involved. Riders must practice, on some of the same bulls that are used in the Rodeo itself. So, during their off times, they jump on the back of a bull, get thrown around, practice their trade and do it all for nothing.
When they go to a rodeo and finish down in the rankings, they don’t have a payday. That’s bad, but It’s actually much worse than that. They still pay entry fees, they have travel expenses and lodging and have to come home and tell a wife and children that there won’t be any dinner out that night.
The best do a little better, but they aren’t getting rich either. For perhaps $75,000 per year (minus the expenses) they get to do what it is they love. It is what gets them out of bed in the morning.
Will Rasmussen, a Montana resident has been involved in rodeo in another—but very important way. Rasmussen is an announcer, one of those folks who just love rodeo and who have a voice that resonates with the crowd. He got into the business somewhat by accident, when his father, also a rodeo announcer, had double booked a weekend and needed someone to announce one of the shows. Rasmussen didn’t immediately get into the business from that 1981 beginning, but actually had another successful career in the insurance business. When the rodeo work began picking up, he says he had to make a decision so he chose rodeo, a decision about which he has no regrets.
“I love the sport. I love the people,” he told us from his cell phone while on a ridgetop above his Choteau ranch where he manages a herd of about 100 cattle. “I spend about 125 days a year on the road, traveling to different points around the country.” He calls rodeos from coast to coast, as far east as New York. He still has two careers, his second now is doing voice-overs for radio and TV for a variety of clients around the country. He does this from a small studio in his home. He spends about the same amount of time doing voice-overs as he does with the Rodeo work.
While it may seem that the announcer, an integral part of the whole experience, just stands at the mike and starts talking, that isn’t so. Rasmussen spends a good deal of time—as much as six hours prior to the event, learning about the cowboys, the animals and the local area to keep folks entertained while the cowboys are getting ready in the chutes. His job is as an entertainer. Anyone who has been in the crowd realizes what an important role the announcer fills during the show.
Rasmussen says that crowds at rodeos across the country are increasing and have been doing that for the past five years of so. He believes part of the reason is that folks are no longer taking vacations to travel around the country, but have taken to using their time and resources for what he calls “stay-cations” where a family chooses local recreation and entertainment. The rodeo is one of those events having all the elements for great family entertainment at reasonable cost. It is also something that the entire family can enjoy and something they will talk about for a long time.
JJ Harrison grew up in the small town of Okanogan located in Northern Washington State. It’s no surprise that he landed in his chosen profession. “I have always loved to perform and make people laugh…from the classroom to the arena”
Starting a Rodeo Clown career after eight years of teaching for Walla Walla public schools however isn’t the normal path. For JJ though, very little about him is normal. “I think I’m the only clown with a Masters degree.” It was tough to leave behind a steady job and benefits to pursue a dream but for JJ it was a risk worth taking. “I believe a Rodeo Clown has the power to create a bridge from fans to contestants and rodeo in general.”
JJ is a kid magnet and his efforts are not going unseen. He has been booked at many of the PRCA’s top events.
Rounding out the picture is those young ladies who are the ambassadors of the sport: the rodeo queen. Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo selects a queen and her court each year during the Harvest Festival. Their job is to promote not only their own local rodeo, but also the sport in general. They do this by traveling to other events around the northwest. While at those events, they ride in the Grand Entry with their regalia and banners that promote our local rodeo. They answer questions, smile and wave, promoting goodwill with fans, but more importantly, with the contestants.
Carolyn Ryder of Eagle Point is one of those closely associated with the program, having been a queen herself. She works with the young ladies, instructing them in the fine art of representing an event and our region. While at our rodeo, the court has an important job besides leading the grand entry. They also spend considerable time astride a horse helping out in the ring when needed. They don’t get involved in the dangerous events, but will chase a calf out of the ring to keep the event moving and perform other duties as necessary.
Ryder is also on the rodeo committee along with fellow Fair Board members Mel Morris and Chris Smith. They are joined by fair manager Dave Koellermeier, event manager Melissa Damon, by Donna Jones, Jason Mattox and by a representative from the Big R stores.
The Wild Rogue Pro Rodeo is a three-day event, running the evenings of May 30-31 and concluding on June 1. Thursday evening is Family night, Friday is cancer survivor night and Saturday is patriots’ night. Each of these groups will receive honor during the rodeo. The Spring Fair is the same weekend, giving folks a wide variety of attractions to choose from.
There is also going to be a drawing during the rodeo for a chance for someone to win $105,000, a prize sponsored by Price Connection.