ELLENSBURG RODEO WRANGLERETTES (1954-1986)
Inducted in 1997
Induction of the Ellensburg Rodeo Wranglerettes into the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame is a tribute to these cowgirls’ thirty-two years of service as ambassadors for the Ellensburg Rodeo and the Kittitas Valley. From 1954 to 1986 the all-girl mounted drill team traveled throughout the Pacific Northwest, appearing in parades and drill team competitions as well as performing in the Junior Rodeo Night Show, Grand Entry, and as a featured act in the Ellensburg Rodeo.
The Wranglerettes made their first appearance at the Ellensburg Rodeo Junior Night Show on Friday, September 3, 1954, and at the Central Washington Fair in Yakima the same year. These ten girls were known simply as the “Kittitas Wranglers”; two years later they became the “Wranglerettes” and two years after that the “Ellensburg Rodeo Wranglerettes.” They were originally coached by Bryce Baker and Lois Clerf, with Bonnie Indermuhle as advisor.
The Wranglerettes invited all girls aged ten to eighteen who could ride, owned a sorrel horse, saddle, boots, and a hat to join the group; matching gear, uniforms, and transportation were furnished by the club through fund-raisers. Former members recall that while being a Wranglerette was fun, it also took lots of dedication from the girls and their parents. The girls rode to practice twice a week during the summer, made weekend trips to parades and horse shows, staged the Wranglerettes’ annual horse show, performed at the Junior Rodeo, and of course rode in the Ellensburg Rodeo Parade, each of the daily Grand Entries, and often the Rodeo performance itself. At the same time many of the girls also participated in 4-H clubs and competed successfully as individuals at horse shows and playdays.
Over their thirty-two year history, the Wranglerettes’ membership ranged from ten to forty-eight. By 1958 the drill team began to win awards in parades and drill team competitions. Bryce Baker said, “We have real good drill team material that has a good chance to be tops on the coast.” Baker was drillmaster, chaperone, horse doctor, and rodeo “father” to the girls. He was assisted by Cal Shull. When Baker died in 1961, George Mills volunteered for the drillmaster position. The biggest challenge was teaching the girls precision in drill and horsemanship. The thirty-three members of the 1960 team won the SeaFair Grand Marshall’s Trophy. Through the years the Wranglerettes appeared in parades and/or horse show competitions at the Pendleton Roundup, Portland Rose Festival, Spokane Lilac Festival, Wenatchee Apple Blossom Festival, SeaFair and in Cle Elum, Toppenish, Quincy, Bainbridge Island, Meridian, and Yakima.
By the mid-1960s, the Wranglerettes boasted 48 active members and were annual favorites in the Ellensburg Rodeo performance. In 1965 they joined the Washington State Horseman’s Association (WSHA) in producing the first of many annual Ellensburg Rodeo Wranglerette Open Horse Shows, to raise money for uniforms, gear, transportation, and to keep the team competitive and looking sharp. Local merchants and community members responded generously in purchasing advertising in the Horse Show Program. As Bryce Baker had predicted, the Wranglerettes came to dominate regional drill team competitions winning numerous WSHA Drill Team State Championships.
Wranglerette alumni fondly remember the support and dedication of their adult advisors. Bryce Baker, Cal Shull, Carol Clerf Martinez, Dorothy Cole, Roberta Roberts, Linda Anderson Dozier, George Mills, Louie Brune, Vern Burk, George Mathews, Jack Ferguson, Al Frink, Kathy Merrill, Robin Turpin, Stan Mainwaring, Cliff Gage, and many, many more helped the girls make the team successful. Another person who the girls loved and trusted to haul their horses to competitions and parades throughout the Northwest for many years was Rod Hussey.
In the mid-1970s a new generation of Wranglerettes came onto the scene, replacing the classic turquoise and white fringed outfits with more modern gold blazers, slacks, and feathered hats. The Wranglerettes continued to compete and serve as the Ellensburg Rodeo’s ambassadors until 1986. By then almost all of the state’s drill teams were gone, replaced by 4-H Horse Clubs and other opportunities for cowgirls to ride and compete. The Ellensburg Rodeo Wranglerettes rode in the 1986 Ellensburg Rodeo parade and grand entry, and afterwards the club disbanded.
Today , there are 232 Ellensburg Rodeo Wranglerette alumni, ranging in age from the 20s through the 50s. They are scattered throughout the Kittitas Valley, the Pacific Northwest, and, quite literally, the world. These cowgirls share a unique bond–they helped to shape a special era in the history of the Ellensburg Rodeo.