BIG BEND/FLYING 5 RODEO COMPANY
Inducted in 2009
The Big Bend/Flying 5 Rodeo Company has roots that go deep in the history of Pacific Northwest rodeo. And throughout its colorful 70-year past, Big Bend broncs and bulls have bucked in the Ellensburg Rodeo Arena.
Bill Hutsell officially founded “Big Bend Rodeo Company” (named after Washington State’s Columbia Plateau region) in 1961, but the company descended from his father Lew Hutsell’s late 1920s eastern Washington stock contracting outfit. “Over the years,” writes one rodeo historian, “this company, and its tradition of outstanding bucking stock, became interconnected with a number of prominent rodeo contractors—each of whom owned his own company, either before or after the association with what later became Big Bend Rodeo Company.”
In 1928 or 1929, Lew Hutsell gathered together enough roughstock to produce Spokane’s July 4th Rodeo. Lew’s son Bill later partnered with Ed Ring, who purchased the Moomaw-Bernard Company in 1946 (Moomaw-Bernard were inducted into ERHOF in 1999). As noted, Bill and two partners founded Big Bend in 1961, but in 1971 sold out to eastern Washingtonian Joe Kelsey, another ERHOF Inductee. In 1992, the company’s evolution came “full circle”: Don Hutsell, Bill’s son and Lew’s grandson, partnered with Sonny Riley to buy out Kelsey-McLean. Riley and his father owned Flying 5 Rodeo Company, and thus the moniker of the new company became “Big Bend/Flying 5 Rodeo Company. “ The long history of Big Bend/Flying 5 Rodeo Company, and all of its related firms and partnerships, is interwoven with the history of the Ellensburg Rodeo. This connection is reflected in a statement by Dr. Ken MacRae: “As arena director, it had been a long-time dream of mine to get only the top end of several Stock Contractors herds to Ellensburg. That dream became reality when we were able to get the great horses and bulls from Big Bend and Flying Five to join Calgary and Beard Rodeo in the early 1990s. The quality of our rodeo was dramatically improved then and has remained top notch ever since. The Hutsell/Riley horses and bulls, (many, such as Spring Fling, went from here to the NFR, and earned numerous awards as the top animals in the US and Canada) have helped enormously to keep us as one of the premier Rodeos, and the top hands all want to come here to get on that stock.”
Spring Fling: Keeping with an ERHOF tradition, Hutsell and Riley have chosen an animal to be inducted with their firm. The famed mare “Spring Fling” is a Big Bend/Flying 5 bronc who has bucked off cowboys across the trans-Mississippi West for over a decade. Spring Fling was voted PRCA top bareback bronc for 1997 and, uniquely, took the top saddle bronc honors two years later. In 2005 she was ranked as one of the top three bareback broncs in all of professional rodeo. Spring Fling appeared in the 2008 National Finals Rodeo.