Photo contributed by Angelika Dietrich
It’s been 70 years since Harley Tucker started the Chief Joseph Days Rodeo on the east moraine above Wallowa Lake.
A local stock contractor, Tucker started the local event that attracted area ranchers who came to show their skills in riding, roping, and other contests that reflected the life of a working cowboy. Today, Chief Joseph Days draws top cowboys from around the country, competing in hopes of winning their way to the National Finals Rodeo.
In a fitting tribute to Tucker, who died at the age of 57 of a heart attack, the queen for the 70th annual Chief Joseph Days is Addie Kilgore, the last of the Tucker great-granddaughters to serve on the court. Kilgore follows cousins Paige Bailey (queen 2008) and Kylie Willis (queen 2012) — also, their mothers all served on the rodeo court, as did their grandmother, Darlene Tucker Turner. Kilgore’s court includes princesses Marli Tracy-Mallory and Jesse Ellen Woodhead.
For the full Chief Joseph Days experience, plan on arriving Tuesday, July 21 for the 1:30 p.m. Bucking Horse Stampede down Joseph’s Main Street. The event kicks off the week’s festivities.
During rodeo performances, organizers encourage visitors to sit on the north side of the Harley Tucker Memorial Arena. The seats feature the Wallowa Mountains as a stunning backdrop. Rodeo action runs nightly Wednesday, July 22 through Saturday, July 25 at 7 p.m. Rodeo tickets for Wednesday are $14 (free for ages 6 and under), Thursday, $14 each; Friday, $17 for covered reserve or $15 for general admission; and Saturday are $20 and $17.
The fast flying Tuckerettes open each rodeo performance, and six-time comedy act of the year winner The Wild Child thrills audiences with death-defying motorcycle stunts and pyrotechnics.
The Wednesday performance is family night. In addition to top cowboys, it features little buckaroos and high school bull riders just starting their careers. Thursday is Tough Enough to Wear Pink, so don pink duds and help support cancer screenings. The action keeps building with Friday and Saturday night performances. Afterwards, people can walk to the adjacent Thunder Room to enjoy music and dancing.
During the day, visitors are encouraged to stroll down Main Street’s shops and boutiques. In addition vendors fill the streets with specialty western gear, American Indian jewelry and crafts, as well as corn dogs, curly fries and kettle corn.
On Friday morning, Main Street comes alive at 10 a.m. with the Kiddie Parade, for entrants age 12 and younger. The Chief Joseph Days Grand Parade is Saturday at 10 a.m.
For more information, a full schedule of events or to purchase rodeo tickets, visit www.chiefjosephdays.com.