HAINES — Every year, citizens of Baker County and beyond look forward to the Haines Stampede rodeo, and every year the bulls, broncs and riders put on a show to celebrate Independence Day.
Organizers were determined not to let the coronavirus pandemic cancel the holiday tradition.
“My family’s been helping put on this rodeo for 20 something years,” said Randa Alton, a rodeo volunteer. “This rodeo has been going on every year for so long, and it needed to happen. Everybody needed to be able to celebrate the 4th.”
The Stampede had performances on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon.
Bill Harvey, chairman of the Baker County Board of Commissioners, said rodeo officials had to make major changes due to the pandemic, but he said residents were determined to make it happen in a summer when most other major local events have been canceled.
“This is a cultural thing for Baker County, there’s ranches around here that do stuff like this all the time and they want to compete against one another, it’s a good thing,” Harvey said. “This is where I got my first ride when I was a youngster a long time ago, so I think it’s great for kids to get their start and see if they like it here.”
The rodeos were also televised by the Blue Mountain Translator District.
Vendor Randy Garnett, owner of Sammy’s BBQ and Appleflat Catering of Wallowa County, said events such as the rodeo are crucial to his business — especially this year, with rodeos and many other events being canceled.
“It’s our livelihood, I had every weekend booked this summer and I ended up doing one,” Garnett said. “We lost 80% of our business. People in Haines stood up and said ‘we’re doing it,’ and I think that’s a great thing.”
Carlee Morton, who’s from Adrian, south of Ontario, competed in the slack on Friday morning and said that she was happy to be able to participate in a rodeo this year.
“I’m super excited they stuck with it, I think it’s a great way to show the community and public what we’re all about,” Morton said. “I think everybody pulled together and decided we needed to celebrate our country.”
Morton wasn’t the only out-of-towner at the rodeo.
Nichole Wainwright, who’s from Long Creek in Grant County, said she drove 2 1/2 hours for the chance to see a rodeo this year and support her friends who competed.
And Katie Hauser, a new resident of Baker City who moved here in April after falling in love with the area, said that she was ecstatic to be able to see one of Baker County’s traditions.
“I’d never been to a rodeo before so this was exciting,” said Hauser, who is the 4-H program coordinator at the Oregon State University Extension office in Baker City. “I liked the barrel races, it’s amazing how well trained the youth and the horses are, they must have trained for ages so that was really impressive to me.”
, though the bravery of some of the folks riding the bulls was terrifying to the audience let alone how brave you have to be get out there and do it.”
Becky Black, however, had a different take on who showed true bravery at the Stampede.
“I think the pickup men are the real heroes,” Black said, referring to the people who help riders safely exit the arena after a ride.