For a few short years, the Ritzville Round-Up was a topic of conversation around the Big Bend country. Folks came from all of Adams county, but attendance was also enjoyed from Lincoln, Spokane, Whitman, Grant, Douglas, Franklin counties, and several surrounding states. Although the Round-Up lasted only nine years, the promoters and organizers did such an outstanding job, that stories still circulate to this day about the cowboys and cowgirls and events that took place during that rodeo. While the stories still abound, the number of people who can actually remember attending the big fair and Round-Up is diminishing rapidly, so it is the goal of the author to record the stories for those of us who were not privileged to experience first hand the excitement of a real western rodeo.
It should be noted that this work is not written from a knowledgeable rodeo fan, but rather from a historian’s perspective. The true rodeo cowboy would certainly be able to handle the subject with expertise that will not be found in this work. It is, however, an important chapter in the history of Ritzville that should not be overlooked.
Because of the author’s limitations regarding rodeos, the story will be told mainly from the old newspaper articles and letting the original authors and editors report on the events and happenings of that day. In fact, the benefits are increased when one considers that the reader can catch a glimpse of the vernacular of that day in addition to better understanding the triumphs and tragedies that accompanied the Round-Up.
Hidden among the many articles is another nugget of history, something that may be overlooked at first reading. The reader is invited to watch for examples of people pitching in and working together in whatever way they could. It is believed that this is the real reason that the Round-Ups were such a big success. Just how the small town of Ritzville could pull off such a big-scale rodeo without the tremendous support of the entire town is a question that is hard to answer even considering all of the local boosters, and it leaves one wondering how it was accomplished at all.
As with many good events, money problems eventually forced the organizers to re-examine the bottom line and try and find ways to meet expenses and even turn a profit. At first, the rodeo was a three-day event but was later shortened to just two days. Then the rodeo competition was limited to just local riders and stock. Other entertainments were then substituted for rodeo events and finally, the decision was made to eliminate the roping and riding events altogether.
In just nine short years, the directors and organizers of the Ritzville Round-Up provided our community with a lasting heritage that we can all be proud of.