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EOLS COURT MEMBER COURTNEY RYNEARSON presents donated Eastern Oregon Livestock Show tickets to residents of the Grande Ronde Retirement Residence represented by Ethel Ream and Bob McClure. CHRIS BAXTER / The Observer
Firmly believing that rodeo is a spectator sport for kids of all ages, Eastern Oregon Livestock Show court member Courtney Rynearson found a way recently to let some older ones in on the fun.
One of Rynearson’s chores as an EOLS court member and queen candidate is to sell as many tickets as she can to the event scheduled to take place in Union June 4-10. One man who wishes to remain anonymous bought 30 tickets and asked Rynearson to donate them to a good cause.
The 16-year-old from Union didn’t have to think twice. She knew just what to do with the windfall.
“I know the Grande Ronde Retirement Residence takes a bus out there every year, and I know there are a lot of people who would want to go,” she said.
So it is that at least 30 senior citizens on fixed incomes get to take in the EOLS with its Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeo, horse racing, livestock exhibits and more.
Dona Duncan, an activities director at the retirement center on Gekeler Lane in La Grande, said residents are more than grateful for the gift.
“This means a great deal to us,” Duncan said. “Our people are excited to be going. They’re looking forward to the experience, and it means a lot to me to be able to take them.”
Rynearson, a sophomore at Union High school and the daughter of Tim and Tammy Rynearson, followed in the footsteps of her ancestors by trying out for this year’s court. Her grandmother, Cecil Puckett, was a member back in 1950, and her mother was a queen in the 1980s.
Not only that, her father is a past president of the EOLS board of directors.
“The EOLS has always been a part of my family,” said Rynearson, who herself has fond memories of being a queen coronation flower girl.
Rynearson, Shai Allen of Enterprise and Adora Brockman of Baker City were picked for the court after tryouts last fall, and one of them will be named queen during the show. Ticket sales is a big part of the competition; the girls have to earn at least $6,000 to pay for tack, clothes and boots, and at least $10,000 to be considered for queen. For the court, final day of sales is Monday, June 4.
Rynearson said selling tickets is a challenge, but a great way to connect with the community.
“It’s very hard work, but I enjoy it. I have been meeting people who know members of my family, though I’ve never met them myself,” she said.
Rynearson said it often happens that someone is planning to be out of town the week of the show, but wants to help anyway. Like the anonymous donor, they buy tickets and ask that they be donated to someone.
In addition to the retirement residence, Rynearson presented five tickets to be raffled off at a recent Cove senior citizens dinner, and plans to donate five more at a similar function in La Grande.
“Local businesses have been very supportive. Lots of people have supported me and the community has really helped,” she said.
She said she hopes to be able to donate more tickets to Grande Ronde Retirement Residence before sales close.
Jessie Huxoll, executive director of the facility, said that would be sweet.
“If we get more, we’ll use them for families of the residents,” she said.