VANCOUVER — There are competitions with the livestock.
There are battles against the clock.
The 450 or so cowboys and cowgirls along with the animals at this weekend’s Vancouver Rodeo provide the sporting aspect of the event.
But they are just part of an entertainment showcase.
The grand entry will feature dozens of horses and riders, in uniform, carrying flags, opening each night of the rodeo in style. Some of the riders will be as young as 6 years old.
Children will compete in mini-broncs. And small children (less than 50 pounds) are eligible for mutton bustin’ — a crowd favorite with kids testing their sheep-riding skills.
There will be a rodeo clown to provide the laughs. There are bullfighters to protect the cowboys in the arena. Those two professions should never be mixed up with one another.
Add it up, and it becomes a 2-and-a-half hour performance that celebrates the American cowboy and cowgirl way of life.
“My favorite thing about this rodeo, the patriotism,” said Helen Cole, the rodeo director. “We love our country. That’s what this rodeo is all about.”
Every year, Vancouver hosts its own rodeo at this time, so close to Independence Day. The event takes place at the Clark County Saddle Club, 10505 NE 117th Ave., Vancouver.
The 47th Vancouver Rodeo begins Friday, with 7 p.m. performances every night through Monday. It is a full rodeo, with bareback, saddlebronc, steer wrestling, roping events, barrel racing, and of course, bull riding.
Ali Diegel, a 2016 graduate of Camas High School, will highlight the grand entry festivities as Miss Vancouver Rodeo, bringing in an American flag for the national anthem.
“I grew up watching the Vancouver Rodeo,” Diegel said, noting there are pictures of former rodeo queens at the Cowboy Church she attended. “I wanted to be one of those girls. I thought they were so pretty, with their big smiles, their really poofy hair, and sparkles.”
Now she is rodeo royalty, proudly representing the Vancouver Rodeo.
The event is more than just a show for fans. This is a fundraiser for the Clark County Saddle Club, a nonprofit that promotes horsemanship and being responsible, Cole said.
Many 4-H clubs can hold meetings at the club as can every horse group in the county. High school equestrian teams train there.
“They all use our grounds,” Cole said.
Every summer, there is a rodeo bible camp for children to learn rodeo skills. The facilities are donated for that event, as well.
“Kids, whether they go to church on Sunday or not, love rodeo bible camp,” Cole said. “They love it out here.”
The Vancouver Rodeo is part of the Northwest Professional Rodeo Association. The contestants compete for up to $50,000 in prize money.
Gates open at 5 p.m. every night for the 7 p.m. show. There are free pony rides beginning at 5 p.m., plus there is a free dance after the rodeo each night.