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KITTITAS COUNTY ROPING CLUB (1947-PRESENT)

Inducted in 2001

Kittitas roping clubIt began as a way to have some Sunday fun. Local ranchers built their own arenas so neighbors and area friends would come to rope calves…and a competitive spirit took over. It became a part of life in the Kittitas Valley. Roping calves was not just a Sunday activity ‑ it was a necessary skill frequently used in every day ranch work. Today that spirit still exists and the Kittitas County Calf Roping Club continues to be a growing ground for ropers and horsemen–and women–to improve their abilities as it has for more than 60 years. For its hand in aiding the Ellensburg Rodeo achieve world fame, the club is among those inducted into the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame. The ropers incorporated in 1947, but its members’ activities, while loosely organized, began much earlier with the Ferguson, Wyatt, Jenkins, Minor, Morrison, Roberts and Porter ropers helping lead the way. When the Ellensburg Rodeo began it was these same ropers who were johnny‑on‑the‑spot to help make it a success ‑‑ as volunteers working the roping and bulldogging chutes and as competitors, many on a par with the rodeo professionals. That, too, still exists. Dr. Ken MacRae, long the arena director for the rodeo, says, “the members have always been very supportive of the rodeo; members helped when and where needed. And they have provided rodeo board members, too. If you lived here and were interested in riding and rodeo and wanted to improve your roping skills you belonged.” Since 1945, the roping club members competed to qualify for the county calf roping held during the Ellensburg Rodeo. That began when locals were not permitted to compete at the rodeo if they were not members of the Turtles Association, the forerunner of what is now the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Competing before the hometown fans was important so the rodeo board added the county roping event. (There was for a time an amateur, or county, bronc-riding event which lasted for a few years). The format for qualifying for the Labor Day weekend county roping has changed. Now there are four elimination ropings throughout the summer and the top eight ropers, qualify to rope at the rodeo. Some of the top eight may opt to compete in the PRCA sanctioned calf roping (and are PRCA members), so the next placed roper gets the call to rope in the county roping. While the county championship has been passed around to many members, the Minor family has won more than a dozen titles with more likely to come. Buck and sons Pat and Brent have been tough to beat –Pat having won seven times and Brent six and still active. Solly Houser and Danny Orcutt each won five times. Fans also see the members volunteering to help push cattle out of the arena ‑ for years it was Frank Wallace and Tex Taliaferro ‑ or younger members running out to untie calves during the PRCA events. They have helped sort and earmark calves and steers for the rodeo’s daily draws. (Each pro cowboy entry has his calf or steer drawn by chance). MacRae said, “All you had to do was give a call and they’d be there to help. We’d tie down the calves before they were roped during the rodeo performances and that was a long day of sweaty work.” Throughout the year, the club promotes roping and horsemanship through playdays and clinics, monthly ropings where points are totaled. At year’s end high‑point winners receive awards and prizes at the annual banquet. In the late 1970’s women were included as members of the club and breakaway roping was added to the other roping events. Membership is open to permanent county residents and today there are 65 active members (15 families). Another notable activity is the sponsorship of the Northwest 5­head calf roping, team roping and steer wrestling championship. The three‑day Memorial Day weekend event attracts top contestants from Canada and the western half of the U.S. including such “name” entries as Joe Beaver, Brent Lewis, Jeff Coehlo, Dean Oliver and Brad Goodrich. Goodrich and Allen Bach are former roping club members who have gone on to the highest levels of pro rodeo including the National Finals Rodeo. Bach is a three‑time world champion team roper and Goodrich is a top 15 roper and bulldogger ‑ and 1984 county roping champ. Presently [2001] the club is headed by a seven‑member board.