From the opening day Bucking Horse Stampede through Joseph to the final bullride five days later, action and fun summed up the 74th annual Chief Joseph Days rodeo that took place July 23-28. Six days of activities and four days of rodeo. Saturday’s parade featured Grand Marshal Bill Wells, along with the members of many previous courts, including 1949, 1964, and 1999.
Bridwell Pro Rodeos supplied all the stock for the rodeo, which kept all the cowboys on their toes. For example, only two bulls were ridden over the four days. Plenty of cowboys in roping events found that cattle don’t always run slow or in a straight line, which meant plenty of empty loops. But that meant that winners won big. Steers participating in the steer wrestling events often either stepped on the accelerator or slammed on the brakes, leaving the “linebackers of pro rodeo” holding air and eating dirt. Thanks to active rough stock, plenty of cowboys didn’t make 8-second rides either, but the ones who did took home a fat purse.
This rodeo seemed to be a safe one all around. While riders suffered the usual bumps, scrapes, slings and arrows of life riding rough stock, there were no injuries serious enough to warrant a trip to the hospital. Rodeo veterinarian Dr. Randy Greenshields noted that no livestock were seriously injured either, except for one steer that suffered a dislocated shoulder but was “walking around just fine” once the vet “popped it back into place”, and one calf that had the wind knocked out of him, but was up and doing fine once he was hauled out of the arena and allowed to rest on some nice clean straw.
The Nez Perce encampment and Friendship Feast provided opportunities for Indians, especially the Nez Perce Wallowa band, to return to their homeland. The Nez Perce set up camp on the Encampment Pavilion just east of the rodeo grounds. An important tradition of the rodeo as well as the area itself, tribal presence is an integral part of the rodeo parade. Beyond that, the Nez Perce Friendship feast of salmon provided by the Wallowa Band Nez Perce, and pot-luck dishes provided by everyone else, is a highlight of Saturday afternoon. The feast is followed by prayers, songs and a traditional Indian dance contest. It’s one of the most highly anticipated events of rodeo with hundreds witnessing the competition.
Even the only downside of the six days had a happy ending. Local favorite, Derek Kolbaba, a PRCA top-10 bullrider was disqualified. The good news: He recovered shortly afterward and still made it to compete in the next rodeo. Kolbaba rode his bull for more than the required eight seconds, but was disqualified because halfway through his ride his free hand brushed the spinning bull’s side. Kolbaba’s dismount was equally unfortunate. He landed on his feet, but in the process aggravated a knee injury sustained last year in Little Rock, Arkansas. He had to be helped from the arena, but later recovered and headed for his next rodeo in Montana.
Caleb McMillan of Soap Lake Washington scored an 83-point ride on Dirty Steve and owned the night. McMillan also competed in steer wrestling and tie-down roping. Heartbreak of the Thursday night bull event was Colton Humphries’ re-ride. Interfered with when the bull collided with the side of the chute, Humphries was offered a re-ride on a bull known as Renewed Spirit. In a spectacular performance, Humphries stayed aboard the high-kicking animal for exactly 7.98 seconds. Then as he tried to gather himself and get to his feet, the bull turned on him, knocking the prone Humphries around the arena for a few breathholding seconds before the bull fighters distracted him from the fallen rider. Helped from the arena, Humphries seemed to be OK. However, eight seconds is 8.00 seconds, and Humphries was awarded a No Time for his second effort.
CJD Rodeo president Terry Jones said it was a very successful rodeo.
“We had a lot of good crowds; Wednesday night’s crowd was probably the biggest we’ve ever had,” he said. “Friday night’s crowd was right up there, and Saturday was basically sold out.” He added that the rodeo ran smoothly with few glitches and that everyone did a marvelous job.
Jones said that a number of people gave him compliments on how good the rodeo was in all its aspects and said the weather helped make the rodeo more enjoyable.
One of Jone’s favorite parts of the rodeo was rodeo clown Troy Lerwill, who kept the crowd in stitches. Lerwill’s Wild Child included a motorcycle jump over a Dodge pickup—accompanied by flames. It was an audience favorite, despite the fact that it’s a rodeo act with no sign of horses, cattle or even dogs anywhere. Lerwill’s good-natured banter and considerable motocross skills provided a family-friendly act with plenty of laughs.
“Troy’s a great act,” Terry Jones said. “Even if I’ve seen it before, it’s still funny.” Jones added that bull riding and wild cow milking also made for a great show.
While the purse was not a record, the $112,000 in prize money doled out ensured plenty of competitors for next year’s rodeo. The 83-point winning bull ride by Caleb McMillan won the cowboy nearly $5,000 for his efforts. Tucker Hill won $2,400 for his 86-point ride in the saddle bronc: a record for the arena.
Jones also noted the efforts of volunteers, which he said numbered more than 300. Angelika Dietrich was recognized as the Volunteer of the Year for her work in photographing the rodeo and also managing the website, designing the program and other publications, and other jobs too numerous to mention.
“You can’t say enough about the volunteers,” Jones said. “For that many people to show up and do their jobs so well makes putting on this rodeo a lot easier.”