Roundup board of directors makes 'heartbreaking' decision on iconic event due to the COVID-19 outbreak

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - The Crooked River Roundup rodeo has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Crooked River Roundup drawing more fanfare than most is officially postponed until next summer.

The decision made by the Crooked River Roundup Board was announced Friday afternoon.

"This was a heartbreaking decision for everyone involved," said Crooked River Roundup President Jason Snider. "We have exhausted all possible options and came to the conclusion that because of the ongoing ban on large public events, it will not be possible to proceed with the rodeo as we have for nearly 75 years."

Rodeo Announcer Marty Campbell broke the news in a short video address posted to the roundup's Facebook page.

Campbell first spoke about the 2019 Crooked River Roundup, recalling how event organizers, volunteers and community members banded together to prepare the rodeo arena following substantial rainfall. He praised the way everyone came together then and said the community is asked to do the same again as the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Now, it's not just Prineville. We are coming together as a worldwide community as we face one of the most unprecedented times this world has ever seen," Campbell said. "Just as Prineville did a year ago, the entire planet has come together to put the pieces back together that we could never have anticipated would fall apart."

Campbell said that Prineville is once again doing its part but doing it in a very different way.

"Our role is to come together by keeping our distance," he said. "We are called to protect our loved ones. We are called to protect our community and our world in ways that seem different than we could have ever imagined. And part of our part is to stay home when we would rather be at the Crooked River Roundup."

The roundup is not only a monthlong event celebrating Crook County western heritage, it is the iconic event that residents eagerly await and puts the local community on the map every summer. It draws thousands of visitors to the community and gives the local economy a significant shot in the arm.

Even among the other Crooked River Roundup events of past years, the 2020 version was poised to stand out. It would be the 75th anniversary of the event and roundup and community leaders had put extra effort into making it a special occasion.

In late January, roundup leaders asked the Prineville City Council and Crook County Court to officially declare 2020 the Year of the Cowboy.

Board member Steve Holliday said that he initially came up with the idea this past fall while he was reflecting on the 75th anniversary. He felt like the board needed to do something that would celebrate the milestone as well as the community and the Western heritage upon which Crook County is founded. And while he acknowledged that hats, boots, buckles and rodeo are a big part of being a cowboy, he feels there is more to it than that.

"It's a state of mind. It's a way of life," Holliday said. "It's coming up against a problem and finding a solution, not waiting for someone else to fix it for you."

Roundup Board President Jason Snider added that the Year of the Cowboy is about identifying a pretty important role in this community and what the Crooked River Roundup has been for the past 75 years.

The 75th Anniversary Kickoff Gala followed in early February. Typically, roundup leaders had hosted a roundup queen coronation event, which included a dinner and the announcement of the roundup queen and grand marshal. The gala by contrast was a more elegant event where people were asked to dress up in their Western best. Held at the indoor arena of the Crook County Fairgrounds, it drew a crowd of more than 500 people and raised $10,000 to support Roundup Queen Emily McDaniel during her reign as well as Crook County High School programs like culinary arts, cheerleading and FFA and National Junior ROTC.

The gala not only included a dinner but live music, an auction and entertainment by cowboy poets and storytelling by a Warm Springs tribal elder.

The roundup board still intends to celebrate the 75th anniversary – it will just have to wait until next year.

"It'll be a re-ride next year, as we say in rodeo," Campbell remarked.

Roundup leaders plan to make another announcement regarding the status of the 2020 horse races on May 15.

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