One of the many remarkable aspects of Sisters Rodeo is that it is entirely volunteer-produced. For the past dozen years, one of those dedicated volunteers has been Bonnie Knox.

Her tasks are visible ones — she’s part of the painting crew that spruces up the arena every season before Rodeo. At the event itself, she serves as an usher.

“I love it,” she told The Nugget. “It’s like a big family.”

The Sisters Rodeo family has had to face down some adversity this spring. Long-time President Glenn Miller is recovering from a medical crisis, and Mother Nature has bucked hard and kept work crews out of the saddle.

“This year was just hideous with the snow, so we didn’t even start till this month,” Knox said. “We paint everything. We paint the bleachers, we paint beer houses, and we paint the chutes where the livestock goes back in. They really take a beating.”

Knox always wanted to participate in Sisters Rodeo, but for many years after she moved here in 1977, that just wasn’t in the cards. She operated a horse breeding barn for Patterson Ranch, and it was an all-consuming endeavor.

“So I had no time,” Knox said.

Horses have been at the center of Bonnie Knox’s life since she was a girl.

“I wanted a horse from the time I was 3,” she recalled. “And finally my dad said , ‘If you can save enough money, I’ll match what you save and we’ll get you a horse.’”

Knox put her nose to the grindstone.

“I collected acorns for the pig farmers and they paid by the pound,” she said. “I washed dogs and I walked them. This is how I made money.”

She’s been in the saddle ever since — though she’s annoyed at the lack of trail time with her friends in the Sisters Saddlebags Club so far this year. Weather again.

“I wasn’t on my horse from October till May,” she said.

When Knox isn’t riding or working, you’ll likely find her at one of Sisters’ music venues enjoying her favorite local players — Dry Canyon Stampede, The Anvil Blasters, Bitter Creek or Bill Keale.

“I just enjoy it a lot,” she said.

She’s almost always turned out in high Western style — often representing Sisters Rodeo’s black-and-red colors with a custom hat made by Gene Baldwin of Sisters, featuring her Scottish Clan badge.

At the Rodeo, Knox serves as an usher — a more demanding job than it may appear. Keeping people away from the arena rail is critical to safety. Clods of dirt can spray through the rails, and riders have been known to be launched over them. But people are drawn to that rail like moths to


“That’s the hardest part — keeping them off the rail,” Knox said. “As they walk in, they want to see what’s going on.”

Ushers often don’t get to watch much Rodeo action during their shift. But Knox says she’ll be fully attentive during the entertainment intermission this year.

“I’m going to be watching with both eyes this year, because John Payne’s coming back — the One-Arm Bandit,” she said. “That’s who I got my dog from.”

Knox is proud to be part of a volunteer crew that brings an extraordinary range of skills and experience to bear on producing the event. If something needs to be done, somebody knows how to do it, has the equipment to get it done — and there are willing hands to do the work.

“Every year we get something more done,” Knox said. “I’m very proud of how it looks…. We’re out there working and getting filthy and we’re laughing and talking and you get done and look around and — ooooooh, that looks really good!”