Rodeo trail ride returns
The sight of dirt kicking up, smiling faces and piles of horse dung will return once again to the area around St. Paul this summer -- a sign that normalcy is on the horizon for rodeo-goers and participants alike.
The St. Paul Rodeo's annual trail ride will return in early June, officials announced May 24. The ride is an annual rite that is essential to the lead-up to the event.
"On June 6, trail riders can gather to ride their horses through the three-hour trip, starting in St. Paul, winding through farmland and along hop fields to the Willamette River, then back to town," a release from the rodeo said.
Dave Smith has been involved in preparing the trail ride since its inception 35 years ago. He was originally tasked with cutting down branches and mowing along the trail route, and he still does it to this day.
The job involves "checking for low limbs, making sure there are no holes for a horse to step in, putting out trash cans," he said in a release speaking of duties that have lasted decades. "It's kind of a curse."
Two of Smith's great-uncles were founders of the rodeo when it started back in 1936. Smith has lived in St. Paul for much of his life and remains deeply involved in the annual Fourth of July extravaganza.
The trail ride takes place well before the rodeo, which is slated for June 30 to July 4 this year, but it marks the unofficial start of rodeo season. For Smith, it's a special tradition that he holds close to his heart.
"It's seeing the same faces every year," he said. "You build relationships with the people on the ride and you see a lot of different personalities on the ride. It's fun. Everybody was let down last year. It just wasn't summer without having a rodeo over the Fourth of July. It was quiet."
Due to pandemic restrictions, the trail ride won't have as many participants as usual. But it remains a free event that people interested can sign up for online at StPaulRodeo.com.
Before getting started, it wouldn't do for the cowboys and cowgirls to hit the trail on an empty stomach, so there will be vittles in store.
"A hearty breakfast of pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage and locally-grown strawberries will be served from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.," the release said. "The breakfast will be held in the rodeo arena; the public is asked to enter through the Tack Room Saloon. Seating for the breakfast will be outdoors; please dress accordingly. Seatings will be on the hour beginning at 7 a.m. and continuing through 10 a.m.; tickets must be purchased online to guarantee seating." Takeout breakfasts will be unlimited; purchase a ticket online to guarantee availability. Pickup for takeout will be by the Tack Room Saloon.
Check-in for the ride begins at 8 a.m. and the ride itself will begin at 10 a.m. Breakfast costs $12 for adults and $6 for kids aged 12 and under. For further information on the ride and the rodeo itself, visit StPaulRodeo.com.
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