It was Christmas in July last weekend at the Cottage Grove Rodeo.
“Well, the first part of July, they call it Cowboy Christmas,” said the weekend’s bareback riding champion Kyle Bounds. It was a weekend full of events for Bounds and the other riders last Friday and Saturday at the 71st annual Cottage Grove Rodeo.
For Bounds, and those putting on the rodeo, this year was a return to having fun at the rodeo.
“The last couple years I just went too hard and kind of turned it more into a job than having fun with it. But shoot, I’ve just been staying close to home and it’s actually been pretty fun, I’ve won quite a bit this year,” said the Cottage Grove native, who was also victorious at rodeos in Salem and Philomath over the weekend.
While Bounds enjoyed his time back in Cottage Grove, event organizers were thrilled about how many people came out to the riding club.
“This was the first year that I’ve seen the stands packed in years,” said Cottage Grove Riding Club president Jim Tucker. As of this printing, the official ticket sales figures had not yet been tallied.
For Tucker, the majority of the work has come in the weeks and months leading up to the event. There was repairing bullpens that were damaged by last winter’s storm, putting new posts in and making sure grass was mowed.
A successful race against the clock to get the venue prepared, once things got going on Friday night, Tucker remained busy with parking, taking money and being the recipient of any calls if something went wrong. The one event he did get to watch happened to be Bounds in bareback riding.
Ultimately for Tucker, the weekend was a successful learning experience.
“It went really well overall. By Saturday we figured out the things we didn’t think of Friday night,” the first-year president said.
While Tucker, helped by Shannon Sias and the board with the behind the scenes work, Clint Wells was there making sure the rodeo ran right along. And for Wells, the weekend started with the sheer amount of people that showed up.
“It’s been the best turnout in terms of ticket sales, people staying and having fun afterwards, having some beverages, it’s been the best turnout in years. Years and years,” said Wells. “Ticket sales were great, lots of people came, lots of people had fun. The rodeo went great, people came up to me from everywhere and said, ‘Wow, this is getting great.’”
For Wells, who grew up in Cottage Grove and is back in the area now with his family, the goal is to return the rodeo to what he sees as its heyday about 20 years ago. Wells has been part of the plan from the Cottage Grove Rodeo to help up the level of its product. Wells provides years of experience with rodeos around the state, has served on the local rodeo board and has been a National Pro Rodeo Association judge.
But despite where he has been, Wells has a soft spot for his hometown rodeo.
“It’s the first rodeo I went to as a kid and it’s my hometown with my friends and family surrounding this whole entire place. And we want to make it so that our kids will love it and be passionate about it like we were and we want it to keep going on,” said Wells.
“We love the rodeo and we look forward to the date and everybody coming together and finding unity in all of that. That’s what we really want.”