Rodeo days a road to prizes

Competitors hustle from event to event to win

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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Did you know?

A crew was filming at this week’s Vancouver Rodeo for an upcoming A&E Network reality series. “Rodeo Girls” is focusing on women barrel racers. An A&E press release described the stars of its series this way: “Made up of equal parts rhinestones and blue jeans, the ladies of the rodeo work hard, ride fast and play rough.”

photoChase Richter of Weatherford, Texas, carries his ropes in a special case for the calf roping.

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photoParticipants eye each other Saturday morning at the Vancouver Rodeo.

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photoLoni Tostenrude, 27, from Port Orchard, waits for her turn at the barrel racing during the Saturday morning session of the Vancouver Rodeo.

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photoPhotos by Steven Lane/The Columbian Chase Richter of Weatherford, Texas, on his quarter horse Pay Day, competes in the tie-down roping event during the Vancouver Rodeo's Saturday morning session. He'd already competed in five Oregon rodeos through the July 4 week, and was planning another Saturday night.

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photoA roper and his horse are ready to go Saturday morning.

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Spend a lot more time behind the wheel than in the saddle: That was one way competitors at the Vancouver Rodeo could boost their weekend winnings.

About 450 cowboys and cowgirls entered the four-day event, but they didn't necessarily spend a lot of time at the Clark County Saddle Club.

With several other regional rodeos taking place during the Fourth of July holiday, it really paid to stay busy.

"The Fourth of July is called 'Cowboy Christmas,'" said Shannon McKinzie-Scott, one of the organizers of the Vancouver Rodeo.

Chase Richter had hit a big share of the regional events by Saturday morning, and he still wasn't done. He finished up his Vancouver Rodeo roping competition in a morning session in front of mostly empty grandstands Saturday.

The big show, with an anticipated crowd of 2,500 or so, was scheduled for Saturday night, but Richter was planning to be at the Molalla (Ore.) Buckaroo Rodeo by then. Molalla would be his sixth Oregon rodeo of the week, in addition to his stop in Vancouver.

Overall this week, he's breaking even, Richter said. "If I win at Molalla tonight," he said Saturday morning, "I'll be ahead."

Richter's week started with rodeos in Vale, Eugene and St. Paul, followed by Friday competitions in Yoncalla and La Pine.

It can make for some tight connections, the 23-year-old Texan said. On one of his cowboy-commute legs during the week, Richter was well ahead of schedule until he was stopped for 30 minutes by a highway construction project.

It didn't bother Richter for the first 10 minutes, he said. But for the next 20 minutes, "I was hitting my steering wheel," Richter said. He barely pulled into the parking lot ahead of the event, but he still had to saddle his horse -- and pay his entrance fee.

"I signed a check and handed it to somebody else and had him pay my fee," Richter said.

And after all that, Richter didn't earn anything. He actually lost money because of that entry fee he paid just under the gun.

Entry fees for competitors at the Vancouver Rodeo are from $150 to $200, McKinzie-Scott said. The rodeo does have a $50,000 purse, however. That's pretty good for a rodeo put on by the Clark County Saddle Club, which doesn't get the municipal support of some other Northwest events, said Mark Plowman, another organizer.

Austin Woods said he pulled into the Clark County Saddle Club at 1 a.m. Monday after competing Friday night in La Pine, Ore.

Woods, a 19-year-old cowboy from Newberg, Ore., participates in steer wrestling and team roping. On Saturday morning, Woods and partner Tino Hubner struck out in their team roping event.

"You win some and you lose some," Woods said, and he wasn't just being philosophical.

They won the team event in Silverdale a couple of weeks ago, Woods said, and he won the steer-wrestling in Tillamook -- even though "I'm a little guy in a big guy's event."

They're not making much of a living out of it, Woods said, but "We're paying for our habit."

Woods' rodeo habit does provide another payoff, by the way: help with college.

When the rodeo season is over, Woods will go back to school at Central Arizona College, where he's studying agriculture and business. A rodeo scholarship "helps pay the way," Woods said.


Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558; http://twitter.com/col_history; tom.vogt@columbian.com.