A bull has a rider in its sights during Saturday night's rodeo. (Photo by Leon Neuschwander/Philomath News)

The Philomath Frolic & Rodeo wrapped up its three nights of rodeo performances on Saturday night with impressive attendance numbers — a welcomed sight after watching one of the arena’s grandstand sections go up in flames just a week and a half earlier.

The organization’s board of directors naturally were concerned about how attendance might be affected after the loss of seating from the June 27 fire.

A youngster looks the part at Saturday night’s rodeo. (Photo by Leon Neuschwander/Philomath News)

“Overall, people came out, had a good time and we ended up being down just a little bit from last year,” Frolic & Rodeo board member and media relations chair Chris Workman said. “But last year was a phenomenal year coming out of COVID and everybody just wanting to get out and do something.”

Broken down, rodeo attendance each of the three nights was 943 on Thursday, 2,057 on Friday and 2,041 on Saturday. They were numbers that the Frolic board must’ve been happy to see considering the situation with the grandstands.

“I think a lot of people showed up, couldn’t get a ticket, tried going online and couldn’t get a ticket and just ended up not coming,” Workman said. “We sold everything but the fire and not having those 220 seats each night definitely hurt our numbers. But then again, we hung right in there with our record-setting last year with the amount of standing room that we had.”

Workman said the rodeo arena’s capacity suffered a net loss of 220 seats per night — the 520 Section D seats that were torn out after the fire and then 300 added back in with the temporary bleachers.

“So altogether for the weekend, we were down just over 200 seats for the entire weekend,” Workman said. “The standing room-only seats went through the roof.”

The standing room-only admissions on Friday and Saturday combined added up to 1,006, compared to about 400 in 2021.

The header and heeler chase down the steer in the team-roping event. (Photo by Leon Neuschwander/Philomath News)

Workman said he believes rodeo attendance is on the rise simply because of the population gains seen around the area over the past few years.

Said Workman, “I don’t know what we’re doing a whole lot of things different and as much as I’d like the Frolic board to take credit for changing things up and getting people there, the reality is I think there’s just more people in Benton County.”

The Frolic grounds had pretty lively crowds and the vendors — a group that was larger than usual this year — appeared to be doing good business. They were open two hours before the rodeo on Thursday and Friday and four hours before the rodeo on Saturday.

“The vendors are super happy — most of the food vendors had lines in front of them,” Workman said. “I went around and talked to all of them before they left and they’re all excited to come back next year and do it again. So that’s a good sign.”

A happy participant from Saturday afternoon’s PYAC Fish Rodeo. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

As far as the various events go, Workman observed bigger participation numbers this year for yet another positive.

“The Home Run Derby, the 5K Family Fun Run saw an increase in registrations — more earlier registrations and quite a few of the same-day registrations,” he said. “The cornhole tournament is growing in popularity. I think people are figuring out that Thursday is the kids’ tournament, Fridays the adult tournament and on Saturdays it’s everybody, so that seems to be working well.”

The Professional Lumberjack Competition also saw an increase in numbers, including the crowd that the event drew, which prompted Workman to believe that the seating situation out there may need an upgrade.

“Of course there’s no cost for people to come and watch that, too, and there’s a lot of interest as logging shows continue to grow in popularity,” he said.

The lumberjack competition drew another good crowd this year. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Workman said he sees positives with all of the events and doesn’t believe any of them would be in danger of being dropped.

“With each of these events, as long as the coordinators are heading up the effort … engaged and excited and make the phone calls and get the interest up, I think the events will continue to grow,” Workman said. “I don’t see anything being on the chopping block.”

Earlier in the day, the Frolic put on its annual Grand Parade, another activity that seemed to draw plenty of praise. A few people on social media said it was one of the best parades they had seen in years.

The Frolic’s board of directors will now catch its breath but plan to meet again before the just-completed celebration gets too far in the rearview mirror.

“We call it ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ meeting,” Workman said. “We’ll talk about everything that went well, what didn’t go so well and what just completely fell through the floor that we absolutely have to get fixed right away. Those are very productive meetings and they give us some good things to work towards in the upcoming years.”

A bulldogger grabs a hold of a steer as he gets ready to wrestle him to the ground. (Photo by Leon Neuschwander/Philomath News)

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

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.