Chesaw Fourth of July Rodeo Grand Marshal for 2024, Gary Nealey

For this year’s 82nd Annual 4th of July Chesaw Rodeo, the rodeo club is honored to announce their 2024 Grand Marshal, Gary Nealey.

Submitted by Brittany Jewett

CHESAW – For this year’s 82nd Annual 4th of July Chesaw Rodeo, the rodeo club is honored to announce their 2024 Grand Marshal, Gary Nealey.

Nealey was born and raised in the Chesaw area on his family homestead. His great-grandfather moved here in 1896 and built the original homestead in 1904.

Nealey went to school in Molson until the sixth grade and finished out his high school education in Oroville. He is the fourth-generation farmer/rancher in his family on their Chesaw ranch. That is where he and his younger daughter, Lindsey, and her family tend to cattle during the grazing season. He has three older children, Amy and Scott, who both work in the healthcare field and Angela, who is a retired military veteran. This year’s grand marshal is also a proud grandpa to Kylie, Nathan, Karly, Brady, Shayne, Scarlett, Ryan, Brooke and Jayden and great-grandpa to Aaliyah.

He is quite the handyman, proficient in metalwork and woodwork, to just name a few of his many talents. You can find his metalwork in many places throughout the community; including local houses, The Pastime Bar & Grill, blacksmith forges for the Okanogan County schools and even on the Chesaw rodeo grounds.

He played a large role in the Washington High School Ag department between 1993 and 1998, helping start a blacksmithing decorative ironwork program in schools ranging from Oroville to Wenatchee. During the winter months on his downtime from farming, he volunteered his time to share some of his welding and metalwork knowledge with the Oroville Ag students.

His woodworking abilities are a sight to see with his new house. His family’s original homestead burned down in the late 80s and in 2018 he decided to start, and recently finished, rebuilding a house partly out of timber he cut and milled himself from the property.

Nealey has been a part of the Chesaw Rodeo in one way or another since he was six years old, whether it was as a rodeo club member, or as a spectator enjoying the show. His parents helped build the original rodeo hall dance floor back in the 60s, when the walls surrounding the dance floor were made of chicken wire, until the club could finish building the rest of the hall! He was a member of the Chesaw Rodeo Club for many years, starting in 1981, and in that time, he built the bucking chutes that are still used at the Chesaw Rodeo today. He also used to run the catch pens during the rodeo back in the 80s, as well as helping sell tickets at the main gate.

On top of being an asset to the Chesaw Rodeo, he is also very active in the community. Specifically, the Highlands 4-H club back when his daughter, Lindsey, and many of the other local kids competed. He built an arena on his property for all of the kids to use whenever they wanted to practice, or when they held events such as 4-H camps. Since there is no longer a local 4-H club for the kids, he now volunteers at Oroville’s 6th Grade Camp and teaches a birdhouse building class.

When we asked what his favorite part of the Chesaw Rodeo is, his response was, “The kid’s games; it’s all about the kids! It’s the family games that kick off this rodeo, with kids and adults from all walks of life coming to participate.

“I also really appreciate the cowboys that show up year after year to put on a great show, the people behind the chutes that keep things running smooth and the rodeo club that puts all of this together and makes it all possible. It takes everyone to keep an event like this going strong for 82 years.”

Nealey added, “Every generation has taken up the task of keeping this tradition alive, so if it works out, when I make my way through the parade this year, I will have the next generation of kids in this community with me for the crowd to acknowledge.”