GRAND RONDE -- A bigger and better Spirit Mountain Stampede rodeo will make its return July 15-17 after an absence of two years.
The Northwest Professional Rodeo Association event was held each year from 1996-2008. The nation's sagging economy led to the rodeo's cancellation for the past two years.
Not only is it back, but an increased level of participation from Spirit Mountain Casino should make a significant difference.
"I think everybody is happy to see the rodeo back," said Tribal Elder and rodeo chairman Harold Lyon. "Rodeo is kind of a tradition with Indian people. We're happy we're co-opping with the casino on this rodeo. We have access to more advertising and public awareness going through the casino, which has thousands of people out there every day.
"Of course, the casino is owned by the tribe. It's all the same company, basically. In the past we had some participation with the casino, but it was basically only a money thing. This year we're more into advertising and promoting the rodeo."
The rodeo begins at 5 p.m. Friday with the slack events, held for those who did not qualify for the competitions on Saturday and Sunday. There will be a performance by country western music impersonators Saturday at 8 p.m.
Parking will be available at the rodeo grounds, located at 9615 Grand Ronde Rd., and at the casino. Shuttle buses will run between the casino and rodeo grounds, which are about five miles apart.
"I think the community is thrilled to bring it back," said Siobhan Taylor, the tribe's public affairs director. "The committee has worked very hard to bring it back. The support of Spirit Mountain Casino definitely has made that possible.
"They were involved in the past, but this year it's to a much larger extent with events and activities at the casino in conjunction with the Stampede. We've always had a great partnership with the casino in everything we've done."
Cowboys will compete in all the traditional rodeo events, and top finishers will receive a portion of the entry fees. But rodeos also offer "added money" to draw top competitors. The Stampede is adding $2,000 to the winner's pool in the rough stock events and $1,500 for timed events.
"We have some of the highest added money in the NPRA," Lyon said. "These are all professional cowboys, and they all must be part of the NPRA. We're expecting a large turnout."
Lyon expects around 200 cowboys to take part in the rodeo. Daily paid attendance in the past usually was around 400 and is expected to almost double this year.
"We're good to go," Lyon said. "We're down to the last bit of mowing and painting. We'll start watering the arena pretty soon to get a good water base down to hold down the dust.
"The weather sounds like it's going to be perfect. Not too hot and not too cold. We've done all we can do. Now it's up to the participants and people coming to see the rodeo. What we're really looking forward to is getting through the rodeo without any injuries. Rodeo is a rough business. If we can get through with no injuries and the stock does a good job bucking to give the crowd a good show, that's what we're all about."