TONASKET – This weekend will be a wild one for this little town.
The Founder’s Day celebration is expanding from one night of rodeo to two and the Chamber of Commerce is getting into the act with a circus, street fair and many other activities in town.
“This is all to keep people in town between the parade and the rodeo,” said Comancheros member Geri Beeman. “The parade begins at 11 a.m., but there’s nothing for people to do between that and rodeo time. We want them to stay in town.”
The two-night rodeo event includes children’s games that kick off at 6:30 Thursday, Beeman said. There will also be ladies barrel racing.
Concession stands open at 4 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and local singer Brock Hires will perform at the rodeo grounds from 4-6 p.m. Saturday. The rodeo games kick off at 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
The Grand and Kiddy’s Parade will also come through town in Whitcomb beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday, Beeman said.
Long-time Tonasket resident Neil Robinson will serve as the Grand Marshall for the parade.
“He needs to be recognized,” said Beeman. “He has been a great asset to this community between the Kiwanis and the other groups he’s been involved in.”
The Comancheros and chamber jointly decided the Grand Marshall, Beeman said.
The chamber organized the circus, street fair and several children’s activities in town on Saturday, said Chamber Board Member Julie Alley.
There will also be a treasure hunt for two Saturday rodeo tickets. The chamber of commerce is organizing the treasure hunt, Beeman said.
Third Street will be closed for the street fair on Saturday. There will also be demonstrations of line dancing, karate, belly dancing and canoe carving. Most of these events run from 1-5 p.m. between the Tonasket Day Park and the U.S. Bank parking lot, Alley said. Several stores are also holding sidewalk sales, she said.
There will also be a “Girls on the Run” event for girls and women at the high school track beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday.
The Wenatchee Youth Circus, called one of the four best nonprofessional circus acts in the country, will perform at the Tonasket High School football field on Sunday beginning at 1:30. It costs $5 for adults and $3 for children under 12, Alley said.
Kieann Teall is the 2008 Miss Tonasket Rodeo and will reign over the two day event. This year is the first time the Tonasket Rodeo isn’t participating in the Professional Cowboy’s Rodeo Cowboys Association, Beeman said.
The hometown rodeo format means that anyone can enter — not just professional cowboys on the PRCA circuit.
“A lot of people don’t know one cowboy from the next, but they sure know the person sitting next to them,” said local musician/comedian/clown Bud McSpadden.
It also means more local entertainment, such as Hires and McSpadden can entertain the crowd.
“The new format makes the rodeo more local and hometown oriented than the packaged PRCA rodeo,” McSpadden said. “This is a local community event.”
This will be his first foray into rodeo clowning.
“I’ll be the fat guy running for his life,” McSpadden said with a laugh.
He doesn’t plan to be bull bait while cowboys scramble from the ring.
“There will be young guys who are pros at baiting bulls,” he said. “The boys that know what they’re doing will probably tell me to go guard the beer garden.”
When the Rodeo Club asked McSpadden what he wanted to do for this year’s Founders Day, clowning came to mind.
“It was a unique opportunity to apply my wares,” he said.
It was also a good way to celebrate an upcoming milestone.
McSpadden, rodeo clown, musician and rural comedian, will turn 50 this year.
In 1985, McSpadden’s church decided to start a Christian clown troop, so he and two others went to a clown convention in Spokane.
“Can you imagine the horror of trying to put mascara on for the first time as a six-foot-four cowboy?” McSpadden said. “That little brush thingy might as well have been a garden rake. It’s just not a natural thing for a redneck to be doing!”
But over the years it got easier. Now, McSpadden has four different clown characters and is developing others for the rodeo and upcoming demolition derbies in the Okanogan Valley. Randy Munns has been “teaching me the dirt” on rodeo clowning, McSpadden said.
Though this year will be his first in rodeo clown costume, McSpadden has made trips into the arena before. He rodeoed in high school and went to Spokane Community College on a rodeo scholarship, where he was president of the college Rodeo Club.
“Although a good leader, I was not worth a dang as a cowboy,” he said. “I found I had a magnetic attraction to the dirt in the arena and tended to gravitate toward it within seconds of the chute opening up.”
Now, he’s been clowning for longer than cowboying.
“When I was playing cowboy, I could run a lot faster,” he said.
With several top riders on the rodeo circuit coming to town, McSpadden knows he’ll need to keep his wits about him.
“These aren’t sleepy, dopey, sneezy bulls,” he said. “These bulls are going to be out to do some harm.”
His rodeo persona will take some adjusting.
“It’s hard to keep all that makeup on when you’re rolling around in the dirt,” he said.
He has clowned for the Washington State Head Injury Association events, the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, the Spokane Lilac Parade and the Tonasket Demo Derby. People have laughed in several U.S. states, Canada and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Soon, he’ll begin working with a state prison ministry group in Walla Walla and making further Okanogan County appearances at the Omak Demo Derby and the Okanogan County Fair.
McSpadden hopes people come out to see him clown, the cowboys ride and to support the rodeo.
“The Comancheros have put a lot of effort into this year,” he said. “We really want people to come out and support the community. This is a great, fulfilling place to live – it sure keeps me out of trouble!”