Inducted in 2015
The rodeo timer’s job is to accurately provide times for events, even those timed electronically, in case of a breakdown. As John Guddat wrote in a 2002 Daily Record article about Jan Smith and Nell Henderson, “In this day and age of electronics, glitches and malfunctions happen, but at the Ellensburg Rodeo, if a backup is needed, they have two.”
A fraction of a second can mean thousands of dollars and a national ranking to a professional rodeo cowboy or cowgirl. “While thousands of [Ellensburg Rodeo] fans in the stands look to the scoreboard at the east end of the arena for the official time,” Guddat writes, “Henderson and Smith are in the announcer’s booth with stopwatches” in hand.
Jan Smith first came to the Ellensburg Rodeo in 1986 and served until 2012. An Okanogan and Brewster, Washington, native now residing in Omak, Jan recalls her husband Dave Smith as her “cowboy sweetheart.” He was a rancher and respected rodeo competitor when they met in the 1950s, and Jan has been active in the world of rodeo ever since. ”All of my family members competed at Ellensburg. And cowboys from Canada and the U.S. came to our ranch and practiced” with their children in tow she remembers. “I timed little cowboys, barrel racers, steer wrestlers, tie down ropers, and team ropers in our arena at our ranch. Those are good memories!”
Turning professional, Smith quickly rose to Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) status, timing rodeos throughout the PRCA Columbia River Circuit and beyond. She and Nell Ferguson often worked as a team, as per PRCA regulations.
Jan and Dave Smith’s children—Julie (Kurt), Dale (Renee), and grandchildren Davey, Cade, Chandler, and Jade are involved in rodeo as competitors and fans. The Smiths have also made a mark in high school and college non-rodeo sports, especially basketball. Son Dave P. Smith (Teresa), a nationally ranked PRCA calf roper, was killed alongside three fellow competitors in a July 4, 1990, airplane crash.
In addition to scores of Northwest rodeos and the Columbia River Circuit Finals, Jan Smith has timed the National Circuit Finals and National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nevada. “I enjoyed working with many fine people at the Ellensburg Rodeo for 29 years and catching up on visits with rodeo and ranching friends” Smith recently noted, reminiscing, “I can close my eyes and see the opening ceremony and Grand Entry, which I felt was most spectacular.”