We are in cowboy country. Since we’ve been “discovered” it doesn’t look much like cowboy country anymore, but it definitely has been just that, and in some respects it still is. There are a few ranches left in Central Oregon where cowboy is still “in.” Many locals still wear boots, hats, huge silver belt buckles and long-sleeved plaid shirts on a regular basis. Sometimes they even keep their spurs on – in town! Dress-up means a clean shirt and stiffly pressed jeans with a crease down the front… and a clean hat and shiny boots. You’ll even see the occasional wildrag, the square silk scarf tied into a unique knot around the neck.
But I digress. The early culture of Central Oregon was definitely centered on ranching. People spent their lives on horseback, working cattle and riding wherever they needed to go. So it was natural that a person would become skilled at a given activity like roping, bulldogging or team penning. When people become skilled other people take notice and challenge them to a contest. I just imagine that’s how the idea of a rodeo came about. At any rate, Sisters has been into rodeo for close to a hundred years.
In 1940, the first official Sisters Rodeo came into being. The locals were big thinkers, so they developed a somewhat makeshift rodeo arena and offered a very competitive purse, equal to those in Pendleton and Cheyenne, which drew both amateurs and professionals. The Biggest Little Rodeo in the World was born. Soon land was purchased west of town for a permanent facility where the annual rodeo was held for the next 34 years. Most of the work of organizing, setting up and working the rodeo was done by volunteers, with the announcer and stock supplier being the only ones paid. Donations and small local events helped fund the rodeo. The arena and stands were built by volunteers of donated local lumber. The main events at the rodeo were bull and bronc riding, calf roping, bulldogging, wild cow milking and wild horse racing.
The best of rodeo competitors came to Sisters. Announcer Mel Lambert was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame. Rodeo stock was supplied by two local ranchers. Rodeo queens were chosen by the number of raffle tickets they sold. This competition eventually evolved into a display of horsemanship, speaking skills and presentation.
But by the mid-1950s interest in the rodeo was dwindling. Over the next two decades or so, the Sisters Rodeo struggled to survive with the help of several locals who loved rodeo. Finally in 1979 the present-day rodeo grounds were purchased. Permanent stands and fencing were erected, and in the 80s, the Sisters Rodeo joined the International Professional Rodeo Association. In 1988 they entered the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association, having attained a fine reputation in the rodeo world. By 2009 our rodeo was named Rodeo of the Year. It offered the highest purse in the nation, presented annual student scholarships and was contributing to local charities and non-profits. In fact, the unique Western theme of the town of Sisters was inspired by the rodeo.
The Sisters Rodeo is held every year on the second weekend in June. The rodeo includes related events for several days ahead of time as well as the Rodeo Parade on Saturday and a Buckaroo Breakfast followed by Cowboy Church on Sunday morning.
Long Hollow Ranch still has rooms available during the Sisters Rodeo, so just go to our reservations page or call us to reserve your place. For more information about the Biggest Little Rodeo itself, or for tickets, check their website or call 1-800-827-7522.
You don’t want to miss it!