Compiled from Betty Antone's notes, rodeo entry lists, and the file of the Courier Times
By Kathy Peth
The history of the rodeo here is the history of rodeo itself. In 1912, local businessman Charlie Bingham saw the third-ever Roundup in Pendleton, Oregon. That spectacle fired him up and by 1914 he was promoting a local wild west-type show, with as many horses, tame and otherwise - as he could talk folks into bringing to town. By 1930, Charlie Bingham and Porter LaPlant were putting on the June playday-rodeo AND a 4th of July rodeo at the Ball Field in Sedro-Woolley. Art Bell and Harvey Sorenson furnished the bucking horses, John Peth brought the cattle stock. In 1931 reports note more than 2,000 spectators attended the "First Annual American Legion Roundup" held at the "rodeo grounds near Allen" on Sunday, June 14th. There were races and most of the timed and judged events that are common to rodeo today.
In 1934 show promised "some of the finest riders and ropers in the west". Sixty wild horses and forty wild steers were expected to be needed for the three-day rodeo, offering "hundreds" of dollars in prizes. There was trick riding, bull riding, calf roping, barrel races, trick roping, and "tub riding" by the rodeo clown, O.K. Fox of La Conner.
In 1935, the parade would have 75 saddle horses and in the rodeo was a buffalo riding contest (owned by John Peth). The fastest time in the calf roping was "about 26 seconds". By 1937 the payout, including added prize money, had grown to $2,500 and the rodeo was being promoted as taking its place beside Ellensburg and Pendleton, all three rodeos are still produced today. Tickets cost 50 cents, the bucking horses were sometimes saddled in the arena instead of in the chute, the committee bought oil cloth and safety pins each year for the contestant's shirt numbers, and there were still races: chariot, chuck wagon, pack saddle, and there was a businessman's calf tying contest.
The SWRC formed October 22, 1943, soon the new SWRC was producing both the June and the July rodeos. In 1945 the club bought 10 acres on Polte Rd for $3,000.00. The membership loaned the club from $25 to $100 each and used proceeds from previous rodeos to retire the land debt and build the arena and chutes. The club paid back its member-loans and has been self-supporting ever since. In the next few years, bleachers, a club house made from the old McRae School House and a camp building from Scott Paper serving as a caretaker house completed the necessaries. By 1943 the rodeo offered five regular events and five or size races - no team roping or barrel racing yet. In 1946, one-armed trick roper Red Jackson brought his "educated horse Jo" to please the crowd. Stock contractors were John Peth and Mack Woods. Pickup men were Marsten Ball and Art Bell; Joe Antone and Del Gorrell ran the chutes. SWRC boasted 72 members, up for the 18 founders in 1943.
The first rodeo at the new grounds on Polte Rd opened to capacity crowds in 1947.
Many well known local and national rodeo champions have competed in this arena. Wick Peth, Hall of Fame, legendary rodeo bull fighter who fought bulls at the National Finals Rodeo 11 times, NFR bullfighter Karl Doering, Dean Oliver, Bucky and B.J. Campbell, Lee Graves, Buz Peth, Mike Beers, Shane Proctor, George Aros, Leo and Jerald Camarillo and Shane Erickson have strapped their spurs on behind the Sedro-Woolley Chutes.