By Jasmine Pankratz
History is being made in Oregon this week – and not just by the disastrous wildfires that are raging across the state.
Three rodeo committees and three stock contractors have teamed up to put on a unique event that is the first of its kind. The Cascade Chute Out is making its debut as a PRCA-sanctioned event taking place this weekend at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center in Redmond, Oregon.
In a normal year, the city of Redmond would host its High Desert Stampede in March and the Sisters Rodeo committee and Crooked River Round-up would host their rodeos in June. COVID-19 canceled those events.
Bridwell Pro Rodeos came up with the idea to join forces with the committees to create an opportunity for contestants to win money, fans to support rodeo and for stock contractors to showcase their talented stock.
“When the idea was first brought to me, I knew I had to help make this happen,” said Denis Fast, Chairman of the High Desert Stampede, the newest and fastest growing rodeo in the country. “This has truly been a fun project and has brought excitement back to Oregon and the whole rodeo community.”
Bridwell Pro Rodeos, owned and operated by Tim and Haley J. Bridwell, usually produces 24 rodeos a year. This will be the company’s only rodeo of 2020, made possible by the couple’s ability to dream, adapt and recruit people to believe in this event. The other two stock contractors, Four Star Rodeo Company based in California and Corey & Lange Rodeo Company based in Washington, have only worked one rodeo each this year.
Ordinarily, the famous Pendleton Round-Up Rodeo would take place on this weekend, drawing hundreds of contestants and fans to Oregon. When the volunteer committee canceled its event for the first since World War II, along with almost every West Coast rodeo, Haley J Bridwell knew something had to be done.
“The midwest is doing fine, they’re back to rodeoing for the most part, but we are dying on the vine over here,” Bridwell said. “And people have forgotten that.”
Taking action, the Deschutes County Fair manager Geoff Hinds put together a safety plan that was proposed to and approved by the county and state. Two weeks ago, Lakeview, Oregon, was able to host a rodeo after the county approved the rodeo’s safety plan that was drawn from the proposal that Hinds had put together.
The Cascade Chute Out and the Lake County Round-up are the only two rodeos taking place as part of the Columbia River Circuit (consisting of Washnigton, Oregon and northern Idaho) out of the 42 rodeos initially scheduled.
On top of the hoops that had to be jumped through in order to comply with COVID mandates and convincing rodeo personnel to help host this event, the wildfires in Oregon presented another challenge in an already difficult environment.
“Everyone took a gamble on having this event because everything was against us,” Bridwell said. “It was a huge risk for everyone involved, but we live a lifestyle that we believe is worth gambling on and pushing forward.”
The Bridwells worked tirelessly through the challenges to produce the rodeo because they believe in the potential this event has to impact the future of professional rodeo.
“Short term, I think this event has the ability to set the precedent on how we maintain the regulations that have been given and still have a large gathering respectfully and responsibly,” Bridwell said. “Long term, I think it pushes well established rodeos to consider new ideas in collaboration with other rodeos.”
The Cascade Chute Out has the potential to change the way rodeo committees host future events. But for now, the Bridwells are thankful to just be having a rodeo this weekend.
“I can’t put into words the importance of what is taking place this weekend and what it means to us” Bridwell said.