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Meet the Committee Darrington Timberbowl Rodeo
Story by Lindsey Fancher
2022 became the record-breaking year in ticket sales for the pioneer in Washington ranch bronc riding, Darrington Timberbowl Rodeo. “When I became president of the Timberbowl Rodeo the WSRRA asked us to do ranch broncs. At first, we were hesitant, but I’m glad we joined. We’ve had a great relationship with the association ever since,” declares Darrington Timberbowl president, Nick Bates. During the two-year hiatus the rodeo was forced to take during the pandemic, Nick, his wife, Margie, and the Darrington Horse Owners Association Board and Members got to work on the hour-and-a-half-north-of-Seattle rodeo grounds. “Those were some pretty lean years financially,” comments Nick, “Typically we do events at the grounds from May to September. Since we’re in Snohomish County they were sending people up here to make sure we weren’t doing any events.” When ranch rodeo fans and contestants were welcomed back this past June, the arena had a new cover for the bleachers, new handicap accommodations, new concession stand, upgraded camping spots, and surround LED lights. “When rodeos were not the thing to do, we cowboyed up and did what we had to do to keep ours alive,” said Margie.
Due to tight budgets because of the pandemic, Timberbowl had to get creative with their advertising this year. Although typically they will advertise on billboards and newspapers, the rodeo took to a newer medium of ad exposure, social media. With a poster designed by arena director, Gabby Wessen, the committee took to Facebook and Instagram to get the word out about the ranch rodeo seated at the base of the stunning Cascade Mountains. The promotion on social media, new arena updates, and the time off from Covid was just what Darrington needed to excite its surrounding rodeo fans.
The record-breaking Saturday night performance that was had on June 25th required more parking to be opened to accommodate the crowd. “When I was working the gate, I kept looking back at the bleachers not knowing when to shut it off as the people poured in,” said Nick. Luckily, every rodeo fan was able to find a seat. The demographics of these rodeo fans came as a surprise, “This is our first year we used online ticket sales and you can track where people purchase from. I wasn’t expecting our number one ticket buyer to be Seattle.”
It was a group effort that allowed the Timberbowl Rodeo to have such a comeback. Third generation contractor, Daniel Beard from Ellensburg, has been with the Timberbowl since 2019 and his stock used in the ranch bronc riding, bull riding, and even wild cow milking did not disappoint. Joined with first-year arena director, Gabby Wessen, a show was put on that matched the crowd’s excitement. The wild cows that the cowboys would milk were none other than Beard’s bucking stock breeding cows. “It was brutal on the poor boys in the arena,” comments Nick, “The crowd loved it, but I’m not sure we’ll be doing that again. Only a few milked them, you did not want to be the last person over the fence.” Gabby Wessen’s maiden voyage as arena director went a lot smoother than the wild cow milking. “She did a fantastic job,” praises Nick, “Committee members must go where they’re needed, Gabby had to take over all by herself. She got it done.”
The Darrington Timberbowl Rodeo got its name as there used to be a log show held in conjunction with the rodeo. Due to the declining logging industry, the rodeo is what remains. Every year, the rodeo makes donations to local school, sports, and church groups within Darrington. The committee is even working on setting up a scholarship for its rodeo queen. “Every year we have lots of volunteers, the community is great. Everyone steps up. This is just a great place to have a rodeo grounds,” says Nick who sees no signs of the improvements slowing down, “We hope to continue for many more years. We’ve already hired Daniel back for another year. We’re booking specialty acts. This is a year-round team effort.” Always in the last weekend of June, Darrington Timberbowl Rodeo will be returning on June 24th and 25th in 2023.