Hoofin’ it in for Prineville’s big weekend

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: June 21. 2007 5:00AM PST

PRINEVILLE — Throngs of onlookers lined the streets of downtown Prineville on Wednesday afternoon hoping to catch a glimpse of the town’s cowboy past.

At about 5:30 p.m., the drone of traffic on Third and Main streets briefly gave way to the rumble of cattle and whistles from their horse-mounted handlers.

The Prineville cattle drive, the kick-off event for this weekend’s Crooked River Roundup, returned this year after city officials stepped in to help organize it. The Crook County High School Rodeo Team ran the cattle, and the City Council chipped in $2,000 of its discretionary funds.

The traditional cattle drive through downtown Prineville has been up in the air for the last few years.

Two years ago, the drive didn’t happen because of complaints from residents along the route and liability issues for the roundup, said Hank Simmons, president of the roundup’s board of directors.

Last year, the cattle drive came together at the last minute, Simmons said, but this year the board of directors decided not to hold the event.

“But the city has really opened their arms to doing that, so we tried to figure out if there was another organization that could put this on,” he said.

That organization was the high school rodeo team, which drove 21 head of cattle through downtown Wednesday. Team adviser Clint Corey said the cattle came from three different ranches in the Prineville area, and 13 students participated in the drive.

The herd of cattle, which ran from Third Street to Main Street before continuing south to the Crook County Fairgrounds, included one large longhorn. During their southward trip on Main Street, the cows tried to make an unauthorized left turn, but the riders quickly guided them back onto the route.

City Councilor Dean Noyes, who is also involved with the roundup, said he spoke to other city officials after learning that the board of directors was not planning on a cattle drive this year.

“This is a tradition in Prineville that’s been around longer than most of the people living on that street (along the route),” Noyes said. If the cows caused any damage, he added, “the city will come back and we’ll work with folks to make all the repairs necessary.”

Olivia Stafford, who lives on Main Street and watched the drive from her front yard, said she wasn’t concerned about the cows getting on her property. Stafford, 30, said she has lived on Main Street for about 1 1/2 years but has been a Prineville resident “almost my whole life.”

“It’s kind of a tradition,” Stafford said. “Usually when they come by, they’ve got enough people on horses that keep them, and if they do get in the yard it’s no big deal.”

This is the roundup’s 62nd year, and Simmons estimated that about 8,000 people will attend the three days of rodeos and races that start Friday. He added that he thinks the cattle drive has been happening “on and off” for the last 10 years.

But Gordon Gillespie, the director of Prineville’s Bowman Museum, said the event has taken place since he has lived in the city, about 15 years. And Stacey Horton, 27, who watched the drive with her two children from a lawn chair set up on Third Street, said the event has been held “as long as I can remember.”

“It’s neat,” Horton said. “The kids enjoy it, and it’s a way to get the community together, I guess — it keeps this small town a small town.”

Simmons said the drive, which was held at the same time as a chili feed in the parking lot of Community First Bank, is a good way to get “people thinking about the roundup being this weekend.”

“The Crooked River Roundup and the horse race meet is the premier event for Crook County,” he said. “It has been for many years and it continues to be the biggest event that we have here all year long.”

This year, Simmons said, he is looking forward to “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” day on Saturday, which will benefit local breast cancer awareness, treatment and diagnosis programs. All of the roundup’s directors will wear pink and the arena’s crew will have on pink chaps and shirts.

Roundup officials and volunteers also did about $60,000 worth of improvements to the fairgrounds this year to prepare for the weekend. Events at the fairgrounds start Friday morning and continue through Sunday.

Many of those watching the cattle drive Wednesday said they are planning to attend the parade and other activities this weekend. Local businesses — which, according to a history page on the roundup’s Web site, used to shut down for the weekend — were also getting into the spirit. As visitors left town Wednesday, the sign on the local Dairy Queen reminded them, “Enjoy the rodeo.”

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