Love of Learning: See y’all at the Philomath Frolic & Rodeo

Togetherness has always been at the heart of Philomath. There is a timeless children’s song that many of you may remember. The lyrics to the song go like this:

The more we get together
Together, together
The more we get together
The happier we’ll be
‘Cause your friends are my friends
And my friends are your friends
The more we get together
The happier we’ll be

A wealthy rancher, KP McClellan, thought Philomath should have a big horse show back in May 1915 which turned out to be a great success. While Italy declared war on Austria, and Germany declared war on Italy, which signaled the start of World War I, the fun-loving people of Philomath got together to have a big hoedown in May 1915.

The horse show was such a grand success, KP reasoned that it could be expanded to include a series of wild west events that people could come to see later that fall to be similar in nature to the Pendleton Round-Up which started just five years earlier in 1910. In September 1915, Philomath’s first Cowman’s Carnival and Roundup was held. The grounds were located at that time on North 12th Street.

The Cowman’s Carnival started off with a grand parade down Main Street. The grand parade would travel from west to east along Main Street and turn up North 12th Street. A picture of horses walking through town back in 1915 is below. I have often heard the story of a man regularly riding his horse through the Meetin’ Place during these early parades. I suppose that’s why it is often referred to as a “watering hole.”

Cowman's Carnival and Roundup
The Cowman’s Carnival and Round-Up Parade makes its way down Main Street in Philomath in September 1915. (Photo courtesy of Benton County Historical Society)

This year, the Grand Parade will giddyap at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 10. If you have not been to the Philomath Frolic parade, I encourage you to come. It has something for everyone. From fire trucks, to horses, to longhorns, to floats, to log trucks. There are all kinds of candy thrown out to the kids all along the route.

The last parade was in July 2019 and included Mexican dancing horses, senior citizens in electric wheelchairs decorated as covered wagons and the grand marshal in 2019 was the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, wonderful people who have lived in this area for as long as we can remember.

Michael Bendixen, who graduated from Philomath High School, brought a crew from Oregon Public Broadcasting to film the Philomath Frolic and what life in a small town is really like. If you are new to town or you missed the program you can watch it at this link.

We all missed getting together last year since all Frolic & Rodeo events were canceled due to the outbreak of the pandemic. No doubt COVID knocked us all out of our saddles and kept us from being together. I think the whole experience of being isolated and socially distant helped us realize how much we value connection with one another. We missed not getting together. We missed the parade. We missed the Frolic. We missed each other.

This year, some of those same entries will be in the parade. The same first responders who helped us survive 2020 will serve as the grand marshal and the theme is “Back In The Saddle.”

Back in the Saddle Again sign
This shadow box located at the main entrance to the rodeo grounds displays this year’s Philomath Frolic & Rodeo theme for 2021. (Photo by Eric Niemann)

July has always been the best month to get together in Philomath.

Dirt Road Brewery, the Dizzy Hen and over a dozen other local businesses all chipped in to start us off with a big street party that was this past Saturday. They closed off 13th Street and brought in live musicians, craft vendors and helped bring families and friends together to simply enjoy life and sip a cold one.

Paul and Lola Skirvin understood the importance for the community to get together. I remember when they both came to City Hall and generously gifted the 15.5-acre piece of property to the City of Philomath back in December 2016. The city would later elect to call the property Skirvin Park to honor their remarkable gift. Their intent was to see the Frolic continue for the next 100 years and enable future generations the opportunity to get together.

The Philomath Frolic & Rodeo runs Thursday through Saturday, July 8, 9 and 10 and features live music and dancing in the beer garden all three nights.

Pennant from the 1915 Cowman’s Carnival and Roundup
This pennant from the 1915 Cowman’s Carnival and Roundup is located in the Benton County History Museum’s collection of artifacts. (Photo courtesy of Benton County Historical Society)

Friday, the whole town of Philomath can come out to catch the fireworks show which immediately follows the rodeo. This is a great way for us to celebrate and watch an amazing show together after living through particularly tough times apart in 2020.

There will be lumberjack events, a 5-kilometer run, cornhole tournaments, a fish rodeo and the Frolic parade. People can get into the stands and take in all kinds of top-notch rodeo events from cow roping, to barrel racing, to my favorite event, bull riding. You can locate the full schedule of events at this link.

Later throughout the month, we’ll have opportunities to get together at Music In The Park, the Philomath Farmers’ Market, as well as the Philomath Uncorked Wine Walk. Another great place to get together for breakfast is at the Lions Club breakfast at the Frolic grounds, Gathering Together Farm, Eats & Treats, Timber Towne Coffee or the Dizzy Hen. They’ll serve you a “pan”-demic in a skillet. Just forget about dieting next weekend. The food is just too darn good in this little town to pass up.

July is a good time to put down your phone or your tablet in Philomath. I’d say it is high time for us to “Get Back in the Saddle” and head out to the Frolic to get together with friends and family that we haven’t seen in years. Just as the song goes: “the more we get together, the happier we’ll be.”

(Eric Niemann is a former mayor and city councilor in Philomath. He can be reached at [email protected])

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