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Last Stand Rodeo brings in thousands for 72nd annual event

May 31—COULEE CITY — The Coulee City Rodeo Association hosted the 72nd annual Last Stand Rodeo over Memorial Day weekend, featuring a range of competitions and events at the Coulee City Fairgrounds and around town.

Pete Thiry, who has served as the CCRA's president for almost 20 years, said the event was a success.

"It was really good. The weather was a little difficult, but we had a good Friday night crowd, and then Saturday was a sellout. I mean, we were completely full," he said. "And Sunday was a very good crowd for a Sunday crowd."

Since its inception in 1952, Thiry said the Last Stand Rodeo has only been canceled two years, once after the Mount Saint Helens eruption in 1980 and again in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thiry explained how the event compared to previous years' rodeos.

"I'd say that in 2021, right after COVID, we were completely full; Saturday night was packed," he said. "I'd say that our Saturday night this year was comparable to that."

The stadium has seating for around 2,300 people, but the rodeo sells more tickets than that to allow people to stand and watch the event, Thiry said. The Friday and Sunday crowds were comparable to previous events since the pandemic, he said.

"They were pretty close to the same. Sunday might have been one of the bigger Sundays that we've had," he said. "Sunday is normally our weakest day, but (now) it seems like Fridays are (smaller)."

Thiry said that with the rodeo selling out on Saturday multiple years in a row now, the CCRA will likely be considering some sort of expansion to the arena seating or some other potential avenue for allowing a larger attendance during the event.

The rodeo itself featured bareback, steer wrestling, mutton busting, tie-down roping, saddle bronc, breakaway roping, team roping, barrel racing and bull riding competition.

Between events, Trick Rider Shelby Pierson and Rodeo Clown Kevin Higley entertained the crowd — this weekend was Higley's 35th time attending the rodeo in Coulee City, according to the Last Stand Rodeo website.

This year's announcer was Will Rasmussen and the returning Last Stand Rodeo queen was Kaylee Stump.

Thiry elaborated on his favorite event over the weekend.

"I'd have to say that I probably enjoy the bull riding the most," he said. "It's just exciting, and it's a real challenge that the bulls that are used in professional rodeo, the breeding programs are really good; they're just getting stronger and bigger."

Not as many people are interested in signing up for the bull riding and the rodeo is losing participants for those events, Thiry said.

"It's a dangerous event, and there are just not as many people willing to take that risk, I guess," he said. "There are a lot of bull riding schools being held around the country and hopefully that will help the situation."

Thiry said that the feedback on the event was positive.

"They seem to enjoy it, and everybody seemed to be happy other than the weather; Saturday night was so cold," he said. "Memorial Day weekend, as always, it could be 100 degrees or it could be cold and rainy, we just never know."

The event's timing was good too, Thiry said.

"We shoot for a two-and-a-half-hour show, and the last few years we've been running a little longer than that," he said. "This year we were about at that two-and-a-half-hour point, which I think is a good time period for an audience; much longer than that and they get bored."

In addition to the actual rodeo, the event was accompanied by several community events on Saturday, beginning with the Cowboy Breakfast by the Saint Andrews Grange in the morning, followed by the Cow Pie Jog, a 5K fun run, and then the Main Street Parade showing off a range of community floats and participants.

Overall, Thiry said the rodeo ran very smoothly.

"All the volunteers stepped up and each took ownership in the portion of the event that they were in charge of," he said, "and it made the whole event really smooth."

Gabriel Davis may be reached at gdavis@columbiabasinherald.com.