Omak Stampede

K. S. Brooks
Staff Writer

Each year, people say “If you haven’t gone to the Omak Stampede, you need to go.” That’s a fairly true statement. The Omak Rodeo and Stampede is a different sort of rodeo compared to the Pro-West rodeos in Clayton, Springdale, and Colville. In Omak, riders and ropers from all over the U.S. and Canada – many of them national and regional champions – seek to score points to move on to nationals in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, which is the is the largest and oldest rodeo-sanctioning body in the world, according to their website.
In its 85th year, Omak’s rodeo attracts thousands of spectators each night. The stadium can hold over 7,900 people, and many of them attend the rodeo all four days. On Sunday, however, the crowd was sparse until just before the famous suicide race was to begin. That day, nine riders competed down the hillside and across the Okanogan River into the stadium.
The rodeo’s overall winners were, as per the PRCA website:
Bareback riding: Clayton Biglow
Steer wrestling: Taz Olson
Team roping: Kolton Schmidt/Cole Davison
Saddle bronc riding: Cort Scheer
Tie-down roping: Mesquite Mahaffey
Barrel racing: Tammy Fischer
Bull riding: Dakota Beck
The Stampede itself was over in a minute or so. The majority of the stadium watched the race on the big-screen television, while some looked on from the stands. Coming down the hill was viewable, but once they hit the water, only those standing on the shore could see that part without the benefit of the TV screen. The race was steeped in American Indian tradition, and the partnership between the Colville Confederated Tribes and the rodeo was celebrated with the Eagle Spirit Singers during the opening ceremonies on Sunday.
Also part of the celebration was the Indian encampment and pow-wow on the rodeo grounds, sponsored by the Colville Confederated Tribes. Steve Charley of Moses Mountain and Cheryl “Char” Dick of Nespelem said they have been going to the pow-wow since they were children. “This is how I connect with my family – I have lots of relatives here,” Dick said. Her other favorite things about the event were winning money at the stickgame, and the singing.
For Charley, seeing friends from all around the Northwest, reminiscing, playing the stickgame, and listening to the songs inspire him to return each year.
While the suicide race may only last seconds, the event creates memories that will last a lot longer.