Four months before the 59th Annual Oakdale Saddle Club Rodeo, volunteers were already preparing for the 60th.
December’s acquisition of rodeo clown Bryan Potter marked the first step of a long and grueling process to bring the next rodeo into fruition — a route only made possible by the generous dedication of an Oakdale community determined to give the Cowboy Capital of the World one huge reason to keep its namesake.
Each year, volunteers spend countless hours preparing for one of the state’s largest cowboy gatherings: collecting sponsorships, preparing the arena, nailing down contracts and working with the city to ensure each rodeo is as thrilling and fan friendly as the last.
The 2010 rodeo was no exception, despite a disappointing barrage of Sunday rain that thinned down rodeo attendees to about 1,000 faithful. Over 6,000 attended Saturday’s rodeo, which enjoyed mild temperatures and partly sunny skies.
“We are fortunate we had such a large crowd on Saturday, because we took quite a hit on Sunday,” Oakdale Saddle Club president Ed Viohl said. “If we could have had at least half a day of good weather it would have been nice, but we did enough to pay the bill.”
Over 200 workers were on staff during the weekend, with jobs that ranged from parking lot attendants and ticket sales to bull fighters and stock herders behind the chutes.
It’s an event that requires strict attention to detail with the safety of competitors and animals alike both taken into serious consideration. No one knows that more than Oakdale Saddle Club Rodeo Arena director Norm Mendenhall, who started his workdays at 4:30 a.m.
“It takes a couple hundred people to make this thing really work,” Mendenhall said. “Throughout the year we get the arena ready and a week before the rodeo we are checking the cattle to make sure they are healthy.”
With Oakdale’s 1954 all around champion, Cotton Rosser, supplying most of the tremendously powerful and healthy livestock, sick animals aren’t a huge problem.
Rain, however, is a huge factor.
With Saturday evening skies foretelling of a wet Sunday, Verle Beckerdite kicked into full gear on the arena floor. Beckerdite had the difficult task of keeping the dirt compact enough for bull riders, deep enough for barrel racers and dry enough for clown Bert Davis to keep his buckskin leggings out of the mud.
Beckerdite and his wife, Saddle Club director Gerry Beckerdite, are just a few names on an expansive list of community members who have volunteered time to make the rodeo possible.
Viohl estimates that volunteers make up between 22 and 24 committees each year, all with their own assignments to bring in crowds, cowboys and cattle for Oakdale’s yearly rodeo extravaganza.
Courtney Foresmann did most of the work to secure sponsors for the event, with some help from Jami Terra. The two got big name businesses on board while Margo Cummins raised money to bring in expensive belt buckles for the event champions.
The saddle club brings in bullfighters from around the state keep rodeo participants and animals safe, with local cowboy Rick Moffett spearheading the white-shirted posse.
“The few people I have named are just some of the ones who start early and stay late,” Viohl said. “I am very proud of this community. You just don’t see other towns with people willing to step it up and make this thing work.”