Fourth of July rite — In past years more than 400 riders have participated in the event

The St. Paul Rodeo trail ride, the unofficial kickoff to the annual summer rite, is slated for June 1 through the streets of the tiny Marion County town and along the banks of the Willamette River.

The origins of the trail ride date back to the early days of the rodeo, when stock was herded into the town by cowboys on horseback. It has morphed over the years into an event open to anyone with a horse and a desire to join the tradition, not to mention those hungry for pancakes before and rodeo action after the ride.

The trail ride will be led by the royal court – Queen Angie Eichler and princesses Kristina Bates and Whitney Richey. The event is kicked off at 7 a.m. with a no-host pancake breakfast in city hall and the ride gets underway at 10 a.m. and winds about the countryside for a couple of hours before returning to the rodeo grounds for a lunch provided by the rodeo association and served in the Tack Room.

A competition of the Youth Rodeo Association, which starts the day before, will continue at 11 a.m. The rodeo is for boys and girls ages 3 to 18, who compete in a dozen events in three divisions.

The pancake breakfast will also feature a raffle for tickets to two performances of the National Finals Rodeo in December in Las Vegas. The tickets were donated by the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund and all proceeds from the raffle will benefit that organization. Tickets go on sale at 7 a.m. at the breakfast and are $5 each. The drawing will be held at 2 p.m. during the lunch in the Tack Room.

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