JOSEPH — Save the dates! The 75th Chief Joseph Days rodeo is a sure thing for the last full week in July 2021.
At its Monday, Feb. 8 meeting, the Chief Joseph Days board of directors made a unanimous decision to hold the rodeo this summer Tuesday, July 27 through Sunday, Aug. 1. They are making detailed plans for the event that include the bucking horse stampede on Tuesday, junior parade on Friday, and the grand parade on Saturday. The evening Thunder Room gathering will go on. And, of course, all the bucking horses, bull riders, team ropers and other events that make rodeo an integral part of Western culture will happen in the Harley Tucker Memorial Rodeo Grounds.
“The board wanted to be sure there was no room for doubt,” CJD Rodeo Board President Terry Jones said. “We are going to have a Chief Joseph Days rodeo. I’ve called all our contractors and they’ve all agreed to be here.”
That includes the livestock contractor Tim Bidwell, who provides the bucking horses, bulls and calves that are essential to the rodeo. Other contractors and performers who’ve committed to this year’s CJD Rodeo include long-time announcer Jody Carper, rodeo bullfighters Nathan Harp and Chuck Swisher and specialty act Magic in Motion Equine Productions with Madison MacDonald. Her trick riding and daring horseback leaps through flaming hoops thrilled CJD rodeo goers in 2018, and has appeared at the National Finals Rodeo nine years in a row.
“The board wants to let our supporters and fans to know that we are having the 75th CJD Rodeo, even though it is the 76th year,” Jones said. “Some of our performers and contractors have been asking, ‘What’s Joseph going to do?’ Other rodeos, including many in Texas, the Midwest and the Dakotas are planning to hold their events in 2021. So I called our contractors and said that we’re having the CJD Rodeo and we want you all here. And they’re all going to come. We have signed with them all.”
That’s important because this is the time of year when advance ticket sales to the permanent seat holders start. Assurances that their seats will have a rodeo to watch are considered critical.
“We try to have the permanent seats paid for in the middle of March before the court starts selling tickets at spring break time in late March,” Jones said.
This year’s CJD court remains the same as last year’s: Destiny Wecks, Casidee Harrod and Brianna Micka. In 2020, each member of the court ranked equally with the others as an honor court. This year, Jones said, that designation will continue.
“We are going to keep the honor court designation. They’ll sell tickets and receive commission as usual. But it will not be competitive,” Jones said. “And we’ll offer the court members some incentives, based on the number of tickets they sell as a group.”
Jones and the board recognize that there might be some COVID-19-driven changes in an otherwise normal rodeo. But they also anticipate being able to adapt.
If there are some regulations that, for example, forbade the Thunder Room’s indoor dances and socializing, those kinds of activities could probably be moved outdoors. Jones also was upbeat about holding the Back Country Bash, a music event at the rodeo arena the week following CJD.
“Even if regulations are what they are now,” he said, “we could hold it because it’s outside.”
The exception to holding all the “normal” events might be the Nez Perce friendship gathering and feast.
“The Nez Perce have been hit hard by the coronavirus,” Jones said. “Many of the people who participate in that feast are elders. We don’t want to create a situation that would be bad for them, or anyone who attends.”
The CJD board will consult with those who usually attend, including tribal elders from Lapwai, Idaho; the Umatilla Reservation; and Nespelem, Washington, before making a decision about that event.
Jones credited the generosity of the community for providing the financial foundation to move forward positively in planning this year’s CJD Rodeo.
“We refunded a ton of ticket money,” Jones said. “But there were a lot of generous people who donated their 2020 ticket purchase to the rodeo rather than taking refunds. That’s appreciated more than anyone will know.”
Many sponsors also donated their 2020 sponsorships to CJD at a time that was financially difficult for some of them. Their donations totaled more than $15,000 and provided funding for scholarships, repairs to the arena and other facilities and helped the rodeo get set up for this year, Jones said.
As a thank you to those businesses and individuals, the CJD Board gave each sponsor donor a framed CJD buckle that bore the 2020 date.
“It would have cost $100 per buckle to have the dates on the buckles changed to 2021,” Jones said. “So we ordered display cases for the buckles instead and gave the buckles to the donors as a thank you. We tried to match the event on the buckle to the donor’s interests. People were very appreciative. We’re starting to feel really positive about this year’s rodeo. We are moving ahead with the 75th CJD Rodeo planning just as we do every year.”