The Philomath Frolic & Rodeo performances will run Thursday through Saturday at 7 p.m. with the slack rodeo at 11 a.m. Friday. (File photo by Leon Neuschwander/Philomath News)

Story Updated

This story was updated at 9:30 a.m. July 6, 2023: An earlier version of this article reported that this would be bullfighter Jason McCall's final Philomath Frolic & Rodeo. After the story had published, it was learned that McCall is now planning to come back next year.
This is the third in a series of four preview stories for the Frolic, which begins July 5 with a single evening activity and runs through July 8.

The Philomath Frolic & Rodeo prides itself on the exceptional level of talent that works behind the scenes to keep the competitions moving along at a good pace each evening.

Longtime fans that have attended in various locations around the country have likely run into those rodeos that just seem to drag on much longer than needed. In Philomath, the chute boss keeps everything running smoothly.

Frolic preview: Grand Parade heads in new direction

Get ready to set up your parade-viewing chairs in a different spot this year. The Philomath Frolic & Rodeo changed the Grand Parade’s route out of a recommendation from the local police department, board publicity chair Chris Workman said. The parade begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 8. “They’re looking to improve safety, try to…

“We’ve got a great system — Buzz Anderton is the boss in the back and he’s running everything and he’s got his volunteers,” Frolic & Rodeo board member Chris Workman said. “They know how to run the stock in and out of there and keep the show moving.”

This year’s Northwest Pro Rodeo Association schedule in Philomath features 7 p.m. performances Thursday through Saturday (July 6-8) with tickets available online. The slack rodeo with no rough stock events is set for an 11 a.m. start Friday.

Workman gives a lot of credit to Anderton and his crew for making the rodeo enjoyable to watch.

“It’s one of those things that you don’t realize if you don’t go to a lot of different rodeos,” Workman said. “You don’t realize how well the Frolic & Rodeo runs … you’re not sitting and waiting 10 minutes in between the last rider and next rider for the new stock to get out there and ready.”

The folks in back have experience dealing with the type of unpredictable situations that can come up with live animals.

“All those guys in the back have been doing it for years and they just run it like a well-oiled machine,” Workman said. “They make it a more enjoyable experience for everybody.”

B Bar D Rodeo Co., which is based in Culver, has served as the Frolic’s stock contractor since 2009.

“Great bulls, great broncs, I mean, these guys are known — NPRA stock contractor of the year last year and multiple years prior to that so they know what they’re doing,” Workman said.

Rodeo events on the schedule include bareback, barrel racing, breakaway roping, bull riding, saddle bronc, steer wrestling, team roping and tie-down roping. Scores and times will be recorded over the three-day run with winners announced Saturday.

McCall, Allen back in arena

In the arena, bullfighter Jason McCall out of Canby will return for his 18th year in Philomath. McCall has several bullfighting honors are under belt through the NPRA, 

“He’s been bullfighter of the year several times, he’s been to the finals, he’s done the high school finals, just all kinds of stuff and he’s a very good talent … been doing it a long time,” Workman said.

McCall even won the bullfighting competition one year during the recent stretch when the Frolic had added it onto the end of the rodeo as an unsanctioned event.

Joining McCall in the arena will be Cody Marsh.

The voice of the rodeo continues to be Scott Allen, who has developed an intimate connection with Philomath after announcing performances in the local arena for more than two decades.

“He’s been announcer of the year for NPRA for years on end and is a terrific talent … really sets the tone for the rodeo starting with the National Anthem and on through,” Workman said. “This is what he does all summer so he knows a lot of the contestants, he knows their families, he knows their parents, and so for him it’s very personal. And I think he brings that to the rodeo, which people really appreciate.”

Scott Allen has been announcing Philomath Frolic & Rodeo performances for more than two decades. (File photo by Leon Neuschwander/Philomath News)

Rodeo clown Clint “Wolfey” Selvester returns to the Philomath arena for the third straight year to entertain the audience and distract bulls.

Said Workman, “Good, clean family humor and he gets the crowd going.”

In the booth, Jason Buchanan is back to handle the sound system.

“When you go to a rodeo that doesn’t have good sound, you recognize it, and when you have good sound it’s like an NBA basketball game with all of the sound bites and all the clips, fade in, fade out,” Workman said about Buchanan’s skills. “He’s there producing that live as he goes and that’s just experience and a lot of talent to make that happen.”

Donkeys return for sponsor races

Teams of individuals from the rodeo’s highest tier of sponsors will be back racing donkeys in the arena this year after the Frolic secured a new contractor. In 2019, 2021 and 2022 (the 2020 rodeo was canceled), the donkeys had been replaced with steers.

“It’s a chance for all the local sponsors to get their guys and gals out there and represent their business for bragging rights and all that fun stuff that goes with it,” Workman said.

Those participating will be dealing with a less aggressive animal.

“Donkeys are stubborn but a little more mellow and not quite as strong,” Workman said. “So I don’t imagine any parents will have to cover their kids’ eyes or shoulders getting displaced. Yeah, the steer racing was pretty rough.”

This year’s Frolic & Rodeo queen is a local, Anya Hester. The royalty competition and crowning of a new queen no longer occurs during the rodeo.

“There’s so much going on during rodeo weekend and we were trying to do tryouts and it was just one more thing to be involved in with trying to get arena time and everything else and it just got to be a lot,” Workman said. “So they do their own separate thing in the fall and it works out a lot better. The girls are less busy and they’re not riding everywhere, their schedules are a little bit lighter.”

The fireworks show follows the Friday night rodeo performance. (File photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

Friday night post-rodeo fireworks

Following the Friday night rodeo will be the fireworks display. The Frolic places great importance on offering the show, which comes with considerable expense. A few years ago, Alyrica stepped in to cover about half of those costs with the Frolic paying the balance.

Said Workman, “It’s a way that the Frolic can kinda give back to the community.”

He points to the summer of 2020 when the fireworks show went on even though the rodeo had been canceled.

“People came down to the rodeo grounds and sat in the back of their trucks and roofs of their cars and watched and of course there were people all over the community that sat out in lawns and watched,” he said. “It’s just become one of those traditions you can’t let go of.”

Workman said he’s received positive feedback on the Frolic’s show.

“We have people that go to the Fourth of July stuff all the time and year after year we’re told we have the best fireworks show around,” he said. “Better than what Corvallis puts on, better than the Eugene show, better than the one they do down at the reservoir at Fern Ridge and just on and on. You know, it’s not a $1,000 box of fireworks out there, it’s a really good, high-quality professional show.”

Slicker, seen here in last year’s Grand Parade, will perform Friday and Saturday nights. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Slicker to play 2 of the rodeo dances

The Frolic will host a dance following each rodeo performance from approximately 9:30 p.m. until midnight.

Anna-Lisa will take the Yew Wood Corral stage for the first time for the Thursday dance.

“She’s done some stuff locally, she’s done stuff in Portland so we’re excited to bring her down and see how she does in Philomath,” Workman said. “Great sound … she’ll be big energy and put on a good show for everybody.”

Slicker returns this year to play the Friday and Saturday events.

“As they keep coming back to the Frolic, they’re having a lot of success here and that’s helping get their name out and they’re getting other big gigs in other places and growing,” Workman said. “Great band, great musicians, great variety with male and female vocals.”

Five of the seven band members are native to Oregon, including lead female vocalist Jessica Milano, who grew up in Lebanon, and lead male vocalist Josh Santos.

“You’ll be singing along with stuff that you know but then they also do some of their own stuff that’s coming out that’s really, really good and great to dance to and listen to,” Workman said.

Workman promoted the event as a great time for reasons beyond musical talent.

“We usually throw some cornhole boards in there and if you just want to go and grab some friends and hang out, it’s a great spot to go after the rodeo,” he said.

The event includes concessions with alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages and food items from Fat Schlags.

Rodeo ticket holders receive free admission to the dance. Those who want to attend only the dance can purchase tickets ($15) at the Frolic’s ticket office on the day of the event.

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.