VALE – This is what the town lives for – rodeo time in Vale.
On opening night on Friday, July 1, the crowd buzzed with anticipation and cheered for their Vale rodeo flag girls as they whirled through the arena in a cascade of red, white, and blue. Within three seconds, the first saddle bronc rider of the 107th Vale 4th of July Rodeo had been bucked off.
“Oh, man! That horse loves his job,” shouted rodeo announcer Scott Allen to a roaring crowd. Through the opening evening and three more performances, Allen and barrelman Kyle Bode bantered and kept the crowd’s energy high.
“Beer garden, are you with us?” shouted Bode to the far western section of the grounds, silhouetted underneath a neon Bud Light sign. No response.
“I think the quieter they are, the more with us they are,” replied Allen, with a laugh.
The rodeo and Oregon Trail Days in adjacent Wadleigh Park brought folks and families from far and wide over four days of competition, events, and fun.
“You never know what’s gonna happen. I’m doing the same thing, watching the rodeo. I just get to talk about it,” said Allen, before the Suicide Race began Sunday evening.
This year’s Suicide Race – a cross-country horseback ride to the arena – featured riders from Vale, Kami Hawkins and Amanda Zander. They sped off the ridge east of town, toward the Malheur River and the rodeo grounds. Hawkins won, but Zander is a past rodeo champion and the crowd was particularly supportive of the Vale competitors.
Throughout the rodeo, the crowd loved to cheer loudest for local ropers, riders and, of course, mutton busters.
At the Lions Club pancake breakfast Monday morning, local families came together amidst the busy rodeo weekend for breakfast and pancakes flipped by the mayor of Vale himself.
“It’s been great for our businesses They anticipate this all year,” said Vale mayor Tom Vialpando.
Independence Day runners celebrated crossing the finish line with coffee, orange juice, and their own heaping piles of fresh flapjacks. The parking lot was lined with gleaming cars from the Show and Shine Car Show in Wadleigh Park.
With so many visitors to Vale for the weekend, it was a moment that the community could have together before the final evening of rodeo action.
Each rider has their own particular preparation and routine before the competition.
Tyler Elsner from Harper said he has “two meals a day and think about nothing but the buckin’ horse.”
Jaylen Eldridge, a team roping heeler from Homedale, Idaho, said, “I just like to hang out and enjoy the rodeo.”
He made sure to check in with his horse Stripper throughout the travel and before the competition. “He’s super weird. Great horse, weird personality.”
“I’m from south Florida. In May I bought a 22-year-old minivan and came out here,” said Trent Tuten, a bareback rider in Saturday’s competition, as he stretched out before his ride. “Rodeo season. It’s awesome.”
One local who never tired of the rodeo festivities was Queen Brogan Bair. She attended all of the community events and buzzed during the rodeo competition, accompanied by 2023 rodeo queen contestants Taylor Hack, Margie Rich, and Amanda Longoni.
The Queen and the contestants spent most of the weekend festivities together. They waved to the packed sidewalks of A Street together during the Vale 4th of July Parade, laughed together during Monday morning’s Queen’s banquet, and cheered when Amanda Longoni was announced as the 2023 Vale 4th of July Rodeo Queen.
Local businesses and organizations also put on a fantastic array of events for the Oregon Trail Days, from the Quilt Show at ExZacht Sewing, the Show and Shine Car Show, and the treasure-box story time at Vale Library.
Vendors filled the park each day, with food vendors like Mal’s Mobile Bus serving corn dogs and burgers, and Lanette and Alan Humphrey from Burns selling beautiful blankets and Western wear.
“My grandpa won the Omak suicide race 63 times. They built a statue of him at the top of the hill,” said Humphrey.
Something about rodeo season always comes back to family and community.
As the trailers and trucks leave town, and the Vale rodeo season comes to an end, nobody put the energy of the 4th of July better than Queen Brogan herself, from atop her horse Journey.
“The rodeo never leaves Vale. The rodeo doesn’t come to Vale, the rodeo is Vale,” she said.
PHOTO GALLERY: Oregon Trail Days brings festivities all over town
PHOTO GALLERY: Vale 4th of July Parade brings out crowd and the red, white and blue
PHOTO GALLERY: Vale 4th of July Rodeo
Vale Rodeo kicks off with barbecue in park
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