Mike Shepherd was honored as Volunteer of the Year by Sisters Rodeo. photo by Gary Miller
Mike Shepherd was honored as Volunteer of the Year by Sisters Rodeo. photo by Gary Miller

Sisters Rodeo Association is vested in supporting its community and many communities throughout Oregon.

On August 12, at the annual appreciation party for volunteers, the rodeo raised $4,000 for Warfighter Outfitters with auction of a table hand-crafted by veteran Gary Conner, a member of both organizations. In a spirit of generosity, the table was auctioned for $750, then turned back to sell again - a total of three times - to reach that financial goal.

Youth Build of Oregon Sisters received $2,000 with auction of a contestants-signed and framed 2017 rodeo poster. Another $526 was raised for Sisters Cold Weather Shelter. With a donation of Portland Trailblazer tickets by Columbia Distributors, another $500 was raised, which will go into the rodeo's donation budget.

The rodeo donated $3,564 in tickets to charitable organizations across the state, from schools to chambers of commerce.

Much of how the rodeo supports the community throughout the year is not visible to the public. Many organizations earn their yearly budget by working at several sites during the rodeo.

The young people at Youth Build earned $1,480 for labor before and during the rodeo. After each rodeo performance, they and a 4-H group, Hogwash, do clean-up, clearing the grounds of litter like an ant colony gone berserk. Hogwash earned $1,200 this year.

Sisters High School sports programs has parents, coaches and teachers volunteering in service jobs to make a percentage of profits for all high school sports. This year, their income was $8,703.

The vintage Swinging Mountaineers, a square dance club with members up into their 90s, has served hotdogs, hamburgers and fries from the rodeo kitchens for over 30 years. They brought in $4,135 this year. The Deschutes County Sheriff's Posse earned $2,250 parking cars.

Within professional rodeo, Tough Enough to Wear Pink was created seven years ago, mostly by contestants. This is a day at any PRCA rodeo in which cowboys, cowgirls and fans wear pink and raise money for breast cancer support groups and research. This year, Sisters Rodeo raised $7,130 for Sara's Project, a Central Oregon program. This results in a combined seven-year total from Sisters Rodeo of over $45,000.

Such relationships with community programs are beneficial to the rodeo as well. Income from the rodeo allows the association to give $7,500 annually in high school graduate scholarships (over $130,000 since 1993), and a $1,500 scholarship to the rodeo queen for her continued education. The rodeo also supports high school rodeo finals, hoping for future professional rodeo competitors, along with supporting Columbia River Circuit Rodeo.

Presently, Sisters Rodeo is hosting animals that have had to be relocated from fire evacuations in its corrals and paddocks with management by the Pet Evacuation Team. The rodeo is also a campground and incident command center for firefighters and their governing agencies.

Historically, before there were many wonderful community events, Sisters Rodeo was how many service businesses in Sisters were assured income to survive quiet Sisters winters. The town's Western theme was promoted because of the rodeo.

The rodeo thrives because of sponsors and advertisers who help it bring The Biggest Little Show in the World to town, with a reputation for being one of the best mid-sized rodeos in the nation. Sponsors and advertisers find Sisters Rodeo to be a good partner, supporting local businesses whenever possible.

With charitable donations this year totaling around $45,000, Sisters Rodeo willingly welcomes its own responsibility in choosing to make this a better, healthier community.