Rylee Wilcox was crowned Queen of the Chief Joseph Days Court Saturday night, April 20, at the rodeo’s Coronation Dinner. Wilcox, a junior at Joseph Charter School, won the honor in a close race that saw only a few points difference between Wilcox and the other two court members, Katelynn Diggins and Beth Anderson.
Wilcox, a fifth generation Wallowa Countian, excels at horsemanship and wants to pursue a career as a veterinary technician. Her experience with horses includes barrel racing, grooming, showing, and, of course, riding as much as possible. She competed in 4-H show competitions at the Oregon State Fair for the past two years. Wilcox also served on the Wallowa County 4-H court, and qualified to participate in 4-H National Horse Judging competitions in Kentucky last year.
Winning the title of CJD Rodeo Queen requires much more than a nice smile. There’s ticket sales that help fund the rodeo. All together the three court members sold more than $72,000 in CJD Rodeo tickets. Candidates must excel in public speaking, and general deportment. The three competed in horsemanship, roping, cutting, and riding skills — mostly at full tilt in a very muddy area — on Saturday afternoon. But they cleaned up pretty well in time for the dinner and ceremony. CJD president Terry Jones praised all three girls for their energy, skills, and hard work. “It’s one of the best courts I can remember,” he said.
The CJD Rodeo also honored Bill Wells as the Grand Marshall for 2019. Wells graduated from Enterprise High School in 1973, and has served as the CJD rodeo committee president, and rodeo co-chairman. He was also a CJD Rodeo director for many years. “I’m tremendously honored by this,” he said. Wells recently underwent a successful double lung transplant, and at first was reluctant to take on the Grand Marshal job. “Chief Joseph Days is very important to me,” he said, “I’ll do my very best for you all,” Wells said.
Highlights of the evening included brief recountings of memorable experiences from past Rodeo Court members of 1949, 1959, 1969. Ruby Mallon and Marion Mawhin Birkmaier, court members in 1949, told about their adventures in getting and making outfits, traveling, and trying to generate ticket sales at $1 per ticket. Master story-teller Mack Birkmaier joined them on stage to relate the humorous tale of how moths completely disrupted the 1949 Coronation Dance. “We had lights strung across the dance floor outside,” he said. “Then it stated getting dark, really dark. We looked up and there were moths and millers collecting on the lights. They sort of looked like big hornet nests. Then the millers began falling off the big globs of moths that were clinging to the light bulbs. They started flying up the girl’s dresses and dropping down everyone’s shirts. It sort of stopped the whole show.”
But nothing stopped the 2019 Coronation and the dance that followed. Queen Wilcox and the other members of the Chief Joseph Day’s court will be busy throughout the summer. And they’ll be show-stoppers themselves come CJD Rodeo time.