By RODNEY HARWOOD
MOSES LAKE — “It almost died in the late '60s. We were concerned if we were going to have a rodeo the following year,” Hansen recalled. “A couple of us went to the Tri-Cities to the demo derby and we talked to them about bringing a minimum of cars to Moses Lake for a show.
“The hardcore rodeo people were not in favor of a demo derby and we had a hard time selling them on the idea. But we did and it saved the rodeo at that point in time. Nowadays, it’s become a big part of the Roundup.”
The current facilities have a seating capacity of 5,000, Schwab said. The Moses Lake Roundup has taken its place in some of the great rodeos in the Pacific Northwest along with the Omak Stampede, the Horse Heaven Roundup in Kennewick, the Ellensburg Rodeo and the Pendleton Roundup.
“We had horses and rode horses when we were kids,” Schwab recalled. “But this was my first exposure to rodeo. I can’t remember the exact year, 1968 maybe, but they had what we called the ‘Mad Scramble’ at the beginning of the rodeo. They would load the chutes with half horses and half bulls.
“They hired all us local kids and give us $10 apiece to ride the stock out of chutes. They’d open all the chutes at once and the kid that made it the longest was most fearless in the eyes of the others. All the stock was running around at once. There was pickup men racing around. That’s how I started my bull riding career.”
There’s bigger and better rodeos, more money in Cheyenne, Calgary and Houston, but the heart of American rodeo is at rodeos like the Moses Lake Roundup – one go, best ride, best time, best man wins – Cowboy Up.
To go back in time and look at the old programs and the list of world-class cowboys that have come through over the years is enough to jump-start any rodeo fan’s heart. Just the 49th annual program alone back in 1992 tells ya what a show they put on.
The cover features one of our own in George cowboy Wade Leslie, who made rodeo history in 1991 when he rode Wolfman-Skoal for a 100-point ride. Then ya flip through and there on page 6 is maybe the greatest cowboy of ‘em all, Ty Murray, nine-time world champion and Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame. There’s also three-time gold buckle bull rider Tuff Hedeman, world champion saddle bronc rider Robert Etbauer and world champion bareback rider Clint Corey.
It reads like a who’s who of the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame with Fred Whitfield, a world champion back when it was called calf roping and not the now-politically correct tie-down roping.
The best of the best PRCA rodeo cowboys of all time have come through, guys like world champion team ropers Bobby Harris and Tee Woolman. But the cowgirls were not to be upstaged. Maybe the best barrel racer ever, Charmayne James-Rodman and Scamper, showcased what made them 11-time world champions.