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LEONARD DAVIS (1884-1928)

Inducted in 1997

Leonard Davis was instrumental in the creation of the Ellensburg Rodeo and Kittitas County Fair grounds and the orchestration of the first Ellensburg Rodeo in 1923.

William Leonard Davis was born October 20, 1884 in Placer County, California. In 1889 the Davis family immigrated via covered wagon to Okanogan County, homesteading south of Mallot. Because the public schools there did not teach past Grade 8, Leonard and his siblings attended Grades 9-12 in Pullman, at a secondary school attached to the Washington State College (then WSC, now WSU). Leonard stayed on and graduated from WSC in 1914, earning a degree in agriculture. After a brief stint teaching school in Oroville, he and his wife Mary moved to Ellensburg where he was appointed Kittitas County Extension Agent, a post he held until his death in 1928.

It was as Extension Agent that Davis became a prime mover in the creation of the Ellensburg Rodeo and Kittitas County Fair Grounds. As Extension Agent, he naturally was connected to the County Fair, begun in 1920. Davis early promoted the idea of building a permanent fairgrounds with an adjacent rodeo grounds via a huge, voluntary community construction project. As a student as WSC Davis had participated in “work days” or “field days” to help improve the young campus, and he applied this expertise to the task of building a new fair and rodeo grounds in 1923. Davis was thus instrumental in conceiving, organizing, and executing the famed “field day” which resulted in hundreds of Kittitas County citizens building the rodeo and fair grounds. Lou Richards, later rodeo arena director, served as Davis’ “straw boss” for the field day.

As Leonard Davis’ daughter later recalled, “He helped identify the work that needed doing and how many materials and men would be needed. He helped organize teams of 8-10 men to do specific assigned tasks. Farmers brought machinery and horses, others arrived with tools needed or skills they possessed, women prepared and served food for all workers as it was needed. It proved to be an excellent example of a community working together to attain a common goal. Leonard was very proud of his part in that day.”