ELLENSBURG, Washington — Joel Smith rose from his chair where he sat with former Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame presidents Teri Phillip and Mike Allen to greet a couple who entered into his pride and joy on Pearl Street Saturday morning.
“Welcome to the Ellensburg Hall of Fame,” he said, taking a moment to play tour guide through the new museum that finally opened in July, featuring artifacts and over 80 inductees. “Be sure to sign the guest registry on your way out.”
PAST AND PRESENT
Combined, Smith (2015-present), Allen (1997-2004) and Phillip (2004-12) have served as board president 21 of the Ellensburg Hall of Fame’s 23 years. Saturday was a special day in that The Cowboy Channel rolled into town to do dedicated episodes on both the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame and the Ellensburg Rodeo, which was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 2020.
Ellensburg had its opportunity to cowboy up on The Cowboy Channel.
The Special Cowboy Moments program airs Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Pacific on RFD-TV, a cable television network that goes out to over 42 million cable and satellite homes.
The Cowboy Channel is to rodeo what NFL Films is to professional football. Executive producer Kevin Holten and his crew set up shop in the middle of the Ellensburg Hall of Fame Saturday morning, right in front of the new display of longtime stock contractor Frank Beard, to conduct interviews with past and present rodeo board members, as well as those instrumental in the development of the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame. Two separate episodes are expected to run no sooner than June, Holten said.
“He did a good job warming us up by having us talk about ourselves,” Allen said with a laugh. “By the time he got around to asking questions about the history, we were comfortable about sitting in front of the camera, under the lights.”
In all, past and longtime rodeo board members Dr. Myron Linder, Rick Cole, Ron Mitchell and Smith talked about the vast history of one of the top rodeos in the country. Others interviewed during the production included retired board members Roger Weaver, Glen Madsen and Brad Fitterer. They caught up with long-time former board members Scott Repp and Ken MacRae in Arizona last week to talk about the 100-year anniversary coming in 2023.
Phillip, Allen and Smith filled the national audience in on the Rodeo Hall of Fame, which finally opened after 23 years in the making.
“Special Cowboy Moments” is a 30-minute weekly show that goes behind the scenes of the country’s rodeos and talks with the sport’s most prominent figures. Episodes include interviews with cowboys and cowgirls to go along with photography and other documented history. Special Cowboy Moments did a piece on the Buffalo Bill Cody Museum of the West, which some consider one of the finest western museums in the United States. Now it appears the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame is in that same conversation.
“It’s an extremely big honor to be featured on a national telecast,” said Smith, who was instrumental in bringing the Xtreme Bulls to the Ellensburg Rodeo. “They’re doing rodeos all over the country, and Ellensburg is one of the country’s big rodeos. So, this is huge.
“We’re coming up on our 100th anniversary, and it’s nice to get the word out that we’re alive and well. We hope to have a nice, big celebration in September to celebrate going into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame. So, this is a great experience for both Ellensburg and Kittitas County.”
The Cowboy Channel is owned by Rural Media Group and dedicates its programming to rural stories and issues about Americana.
“The purpose of the show is to preserve history and the tradition of American values,” Holten said. “What we’re trying to do is preserve those memories about specific locations.
“We could probably spend our entire lives here just doing the Ellensburg Rodeo with all its history and tradition. As far as the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame, it looks fantastic. I was the executive director of the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, so I know what goes into the making. You stage events here to draw attention to it, and that’s what’s happening today.”
The Cowboy Channel (formerly FamilyNet) also carries Western and rodeo events. In 2020, it signed a multi-year agreement with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association to carry all its major events, including the National Finals Rodeo.
“This is incredible national exposure. We’ve done a number of commercials to run when it does air,” said Allen, who has written an estimated 50 of the 80-plus stories about the inductees over the years. “The last couple of years have been pretty exciting, finally opening up our hall of fame, being inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and now being on national TV.
“With everything that’s been going on with the COVID-19, canceling the (2020) rodeo, this is a big shot in the arm.”
Sitting in the room next to former all-around champion Trevor Brazile’s saddle. The wall of all-around buckle winners — names like Larry Mahan, Tom Ferguson, Smokey Kayser, Bill Linderman, Frank Wood and Brazile — are just part of it. The list goes on and on with the Ellensburg rodeo families, the Yakama Nation, women of rodeo.
It’s all there and The Cowboy Channel put its professional touches on what Ellensburg and rodeo fans already know.
PROUD OF THE EFFORT
“I’m proud of the board and what we’ve been able to achieve,” Phillip said. “It’s fabulous. It means so much to bring these artifacts to the community and to have it featured on national TV.
“When I sit here, looking around, I see a lot of hard work. It’s a classic museum that’s put together with a lot of pride and emotion. It feels good.”
Ellensburg had a chance to cowboy up on The Cowboy Channel, and the episodes are expected to run on national cable sometime this summer.