Rodeo artwork
The Philomath Frolic & Rodeo is scheduled for July 8-10. (Getty Images)
Story updated: The name of the rodeo clown has been corrected from an earlier version of this story. — Editor

Imagine the sights, the sounds and the smells of the Philomath Frolic & Rodeo.

The sights — Hundreds of people lining Applegate Street to watch the parade without fear of spreading a virus.

The sounds — A little girl laughing while splashing in the fish rodeo’s wading pool trying to wrangle a trout.

The smells — On a cool July morning, Lions Club volunteers cook up breakfast to satisfy the senses.

Organizers of Philomath’s grand summer celebration are preparing to offer those kinds of experiences this summer with the Frolic & Rodeo’s return. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, last year’s festivities were reduced to a fireworks show — an appreciated offering but not the same as the real deal.

But in 2021: “The Frolic will happen — one way or another.”

Those are the words of Chris Workman, who sits on the Frolic & Rodeo’s board of directors and holds down a couple of committee assignments, including publicity.

“This year, we are hoping to do a lot more than just fireworks,” he said. “We’ve entered into agreements with all of our rodeo contractors — our announcer, the stock contractor, the rodeo clown, the music and all of that stuff.”

COMING SUNDAY: In his weekly “On the Beat” column, Publisher/Editor Brad Fuqua takes a look at community events like the Philomath Frolic & Rodeo and how important they can be to a community.

It’s good news for folks who have been missing fun times through several months of pandemic restrictions. Although the Frolic is moving full steam ahead with its plans for July 8-10, the chance always remains that the pandemic goes in the wrong direction.

“We have a drop-dead date of May 1,” Workman said. “So by May 1, if we don’t have some certainties that we are a go, we’ll have to make the decision by then.”

Darrell Hinchberger, who serves as president of the Frolic & Rodeo board, seems to be confident that the celebration will go on as planned. He just wants to enjoy a fun time with the rest of the community.

“It’s not one precise thing — I love the fish rodeo, I love the rodeo, I love the beer garden, but it’s the gathering of everybody,” Hinchberger said when asked what he enjoyed most about the Frolic. “If we had nothing and just had a gathering, that would be fine with me.”

Beyond the benefits that a community celebration provides, Hinchberger wants to see the Frolic’s volunteers experience the satisfaction of a job well done.

“Last year when we had to say no, we’re not having it, it really hurt,” Hinchberger said. “We work hard at getting this stuff ready so it was hard on the volunteers, it was like air coming out of a balloon. We did all of this work and now we’ve got nothing.”

Hinchberger said that the fireworks display last summer did serve a purpose greater than exciting late-night visuals.

“It was one symbol of ‘hey, we’re still here, we’re still going to do something no matter how small it might be,’” Hinchberger said.

The Frolic & Rodeo’s board and volunteers all hope that the country will be in a different place come spring.

“If we don’t have some certainties by May 1, then we’ll be making some alternative plans and doing something different,” Workman said. “That’s still four months away, so we’re feeling pretty good.”

Agreements have been made with Scott Allen to return as the rodeo announcer, Jason Buchanan as the sound engineer and B-Bar-D as the stock contractor. Clint “Wolf Man” Sylvester will be the rodeo clown.

“We’ve entered into agreements and they all have clauses where we can get out of the contracts if we’re not allowed to have the rodeo,” Workman said. “But we’re proceeding as if by that time — the middle of summer — people will be able to gather and enjoy the rodeo together.”

Hinchberger said if the celebration goes off as planned, the organization will be prepared.

“My main thought is we will be ready and that’s what I tell my board,” he said. “We have to be ready because if they say go ahead, we can’t do all of this in June. It takes all year to get our stuff all ready and everybody’s been working. We’ll be ready.”

As for the financial end, the Frolic & Rodeo typically makes enough money each year to cover expenses and complete maintenance tasks while putting a little bit aside for facility improvements. Last year’s cancellation didn’t add any funds to the pot, so some projects are on hold.

“We just don’t have quite as money to go toward improving the beer garden or improving the grandstands, improving the arena,” Workman said. “Our bucking chutes need to be replaced eventually — they’re worn out and not the standardized size that the stock contractor likes to have so there are things we need to spend some money on.”

Workman said the organization is exploring grant opportunities that may be available.

“We just started looking into some of those programs to see if we even qualify and so there might be some assistance there to offset some of that lost revenue,” he said.

Philomath is not alone for making plans this summer. Leanna Buck, who is the West region committee director for the Northwest Pro Rodeo Association, stays in contact with others around the area.

“She’s very much in tune with other rodeos,” Workman said. “Everything pretty much got canceled last year; there were a few independents that still did stuff in Idaho and a few other places but for the most part, everything got canceled last year and people are setting dates this year.”

Workman said most rodeos are proceeding with a green light. The Sisters Rodeo is already advertising.

“It looks like everybody’s planning to be back this year is what we’re hearing,” he said.

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