Mark it down: There will be a Toppenish Rodeo this year.
After COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the 85-year tradition in 2020, all signs point toward a return of the city’s signature event July 2-3.
“We absolutely plan on having a rodeo this year,” board President Randy Cobb said. “There are still a few hoops we have to jump through, but we don’t anticipate any problems.”
Cobb explained that the rodeo organization had to establish a series of COVID-19 safety plans for whichever phase the county falls under as part of the state’s reopening plan.
Yakima County moved into phase 3 on March 22 — allowing even more in-person activities — while phase 4 would mean a return to near-normal crowds at the arena.
“We might not be at full capacity, but we will get as many people in there as we can,” Cobb said, adding that the board has been working closely with state, county and local officials to develop contingency plans. “Whether it’s at 50%, 75% or full capacity — we’re just excited that we will be able to have something this year.”
Tickets for the 86th annual Toppenish Rodeo will be available May 4 at toppenishrodeo.com.
One of the reasons for the board’s optimism is the success of last fall’s online auction. The weeklong event helped raise money to cover operating expenses and arena improvements, such as a new calf chute and an elevated beer garden.
Cobb thanked the Toppenish Eagles for donating a number of auction items, including a pair of gameday shoes worn by Seattle Seahawks star Russell Wilson. He also tipped his cap to the community for coming through once again.
“The community definitely stepped up and we are very appreciative,” he said. “We were pleasantly surprised with how well things went even though everything was online.”
The calf chute project is in progress and is expected to be ready in time for the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA)-sanctioned event. The beer garden — which currently sits on a slope — is going to be raised up so people can watch the action instead of being obscured by a fence like in previous years.
“Everyone will be able to see now when they’re having a beer,” Cobb said, adding that he doesn’t know yet if the VIP tents will be available as they were in 2018-19.
“We only have so much room to work with, so if we have to spread out the beer garden due to safety rules, we may not have room,” he said.
Fortunately for rodeo fans, there is plenty of time between now and July for the situation to improve. If Yakima County’s infection rate continue to improve, Toppenish may also see a return of the annual rodeo parade — another COVID casualty from last year.
“We hope the parade happens, too,” Cobb said. “The rodeo wouldn’t be the same without it.”