It's rodeo time in the Wallowa Mountains this week when Chief Joseph Days is enacted for the 58th year at Harley Tucker Memorial Arena in Joseph.

The event officially gets under way Thursday, July 24 (today), with Family Night pro-rodeo action and a family dance, and continuing through Sunday afternoon, July 27, with the championship rodeo finals.

Chief Joseph Days includes adult dances, a carnival, two parades, a friendship feast and traditional dancing at the tepee encampment, daily cowboy breakfasts and an outdoor cowboy church service, all centered around four Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association rodeos in the shadow of the scenic Wallowa Mountains.

"Volunteers have been working hard down here for the past three weeks, getting everything ready," said rodeo chairman Bill Hopkins.

At press time there were tickets available for all rodeo performances, with the covered grandstand section sold out for Saturday night only.

The rodeo performances will feature veteran Bob Tallman as announcer and the dynamic duo of Joe Baumgartner and Ryan Heiser as bullfighters during the bull riding event. Specialty acts include Scott "Funky Kol" Messina Thursday night and Troy "Wild Child" Lerwill, who combines his love of motorcycles and rodeo during the other three performances.

Reigning over the rodeo celebration will be four young women who've practically grown up on horseback in the Wallowas - Queen Anna Yost and Princesses Erin Voss, Celeste Hillock and Joy Kuppinger. Usually CJD has a court of three, but the competition was so close at the tryouts last spring that the Joseph Chamber decided to expand the 2003 court.

With the carnival gearing up just west of the rodeo grounds on Wednesday, the main action starts at 7 p.m. Thursday with the family night rodeo for bargain admission tickets. In addition to the regular pro-rodeo events the popular mutton busting event, featuring a lineup of peewee cowboys and cowgirls, will only be held on Thursday. A nonalcoholic family dance to McKenzie Bridge band will follow Thursday night in the Thunder Room at the rodeo grounds.

Friday morning the imaginative junior parade for youngsters under 15 will start at 10 a.m. The Wallowa County Band plans a free concert on Joseph Main St. at 5:30 p.m., with rodeo action set to start at 7 p.m. Adult-only dances are planned at the Thunder Room after the rodeo both Friday and Saturday nights. Because of a lack of attendance in recent years, there is no teen dance on the 2003 CJD schedule.

A full day of events Saturday starts with the CJD Grand Parade at 10 a.m., followed by a friendship feast and traditional dancing at the Chief Joseph Commemorative encampment just east of the rodeo arena. The Saturday night rodeo this year will include the first Wildest Ride event in memory of cowboy artist Shirly Bothum. It will be open to the top three contestants in the saddle bronc contest during Saturday night's performance.

Throughout the celebration, businesses and art galleries will be open for business throughout Joseph, as well as vendors downtown forming an outdoor market.

CJD Schedule of Events

Thursday, July 24 - 7 p.m., Family Night PRCA rodeo; 9 p.m. family dance.

Friday, July 25 - 5:30 a.m.,American Legion breakfast; 10 a.m., junior parade; 5:30 p.m., outdoor concert by Wallowa County band, Joseph Main St.; 7 p.m. PRCA rodeo; 9 p.m. , adult dance.

Saturday, July 26 - Sunrise to parade time, Shrine Breakfast; 10 a.m., CJD grand parade; 12 noon, friendship feast at tepee encampment, followed by traditional dancing; 7 p.m., PRCA rodeo; 9 p.m., adult dance; 11 p.m., Joseph Chamber cowboy breakfast starts and continues to 10 a.m.

Sunday, July 27: 9 a.m., cowboy church service; 2 p.m., PRCA rodeo finals.

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