Of all the rodeos on the Idaho Cowboy’s Association schedule, the Eagle Rodeo holds a unique place. While most of the ICA rodeos take place in tiny towns and locales even many Idahoans haven’t heard of — places with names like Kamiah, Weippe, and Spray, Or. — the Eagle Rodeo struts its stuff right in the middle of one of the busier parts of a high-traffic area in the 1A. While State Street’s highway traffic and the busyness of a highly populated area carry on at high speed all around, though, there is a completely different sort of commotion going on right in the middle of everything.
Right between the old highway and the new, straddling old downtown and the new strip malls, the heart of town nests the quiet and unassuming rodeo grounds. For most of the year, it is inconspicuous to the point of almost being invisible, even though it is passed by so many thousands every day. For the week leading into Summer each year, though, the little field comes alive with the old west, as the Rodeo comes to town and brings all the heritage of Idaho’s cowboy ways.
The Eagle rodeo proudly boasts the biggest purse of the ICA rodeos, and is one of the more sought-after rodeos by area contestants, primarily for that reason. The entry field for Eagle is always deep, and typically represents the highest level of competitors of the “local” rodeos, with riders also competing in PRCA, WPRA, and the PBR’s Touring Pro division. (This rodeo is also sanctioned by the Northwest Pro Rodeo Association, InterMountain Pro Rodeo Association, and Pro-West Rodeo). Both the stock list and contestant roster are among the best the region offers right now, and the crowd size is reflecting Eagle’s commitment to presenting a high-quality rodeo.
For all this, though, there is still the small Idaho feel to this event that one should come to expect from an ICA rodeo. Our region is blessed with a variety of rodeos from the simple to the spectacular, and there are crowds to appreciate every approach. The fact that Eagle has grown into a high-quality event hasn’t prevented it from retaining its small-town, family feel, and that might be one of its most attractive features. We got to take my “adopted nieces” to the Friday night performance for their very first rodeo, and were delighted at the opportunities for them to see everything from the grandiosity of the flag entry to the dustiness of team roping, the dominance of pro riders and the potential of the local rookies, the disappointment of the missed loop, and the triumph of a 90-point bull ride, with all the drama in between. I’ve been around the arena so long that it’s easy to get jaded or even disinterested when things don’t meet expectations, or even if they just become routine. Even my 10-year-old daughter, who is already well experienced in the sport was reveling in all the action exactly as it should be. Honestly, I can’t even remember my first rodeo, so seeing little eyes light up with every exciting moment reminded me just how wonderful the rodeo is for humans of all ages, and made me want to find more first-timers to cart along to the next one!
(Sidenote: Good for the Eagle Rodeo for including Breakaway Roping in the action, as well. It’s nice to see opportunities for women to compete aside from barrel racing, and gave these little girls some hope that there’s some variety available for them in the rodeo, too. I hope little cowgirls throughout the crowd were inspired to pick up a rope!)
Idaho is all about family. Idaho is all about rodeo. The Eagle Rodeo combines the two ideally. We left the rodeo dusty, smelly, happy, and young. Yes young — the kids were just as young on the outside, too.
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