When Williams & Ford Rodeo Company was required to start a rodeo before obtaining an Idaho Cowboys Association (ICA) certification, it was co-owner Brent Williams’ family history in Southern Idaho that inspired the now four-years-running Fairfield Rodeo.
“I’d seen pictures of my grandma’s brother rodeoing there sometime in the ‘60s and there hadn’t been anything like that there since. I just thought it would be cool to bring it back after it had been gone for so long,” said Williams.
A native Shoshonian with a long history of rodeo riding bulls from high school through the professional circuit, Williams now raises rough stock with partner Royce Ford who brings experience with bucking horses to the company.
The two recently wrapped up the high school rodeo season as the contractors for Idaho’s District 5 and are now launching full-force into preparations for Fairfield. Williams explains that while they love providing the stock for high school rodeos it’s more exciting at Fairfield.
“I’ve never seen a crowd want to leave when it was done before. That first year everyone showed up early but we had to wait to start the rodeo because there were so many cars still waiting to get in.”
Though the rodeo took place in August that year its success carried over all the way to October when contestants who made it into the ICA finals voted to name it, “Rodeo of the Year.”
It was a hard-earned victory with help from Rachel Pantone (who helped in various capacities to organize the event, from acting as sponsorship coordinator to ICA-approved rodeo secretary) and whoever else he could rope into riding along. Williams spent between two and three months in Fairfield leading up to the rodeo in what he described as “a labor of love” building rodeo grounds and meeting people.
He recalls, “When we first started, we knew virtually no one up there.”
Now, nearly the entire town is involved in the rodeo in one way or another with organization of the event was taken over last year by the Camas County Chamber of Commerce.
This year, the Chamber has appointed a rodeo committee of 6 who are spearheading the project. Barb McMurdo, an officer in the Chamber, is a driving force on the committee. She explains that the rodeo was moved this year away from coinciding with the fair to July 13th and 14th for several reasons which include easing stress on local businesses and increasing the contestant draw by switching to a weekend with less competition for events. During fair weekend there are five other professional rodeos in the region pulling contestants away.
However, there were drawbacks too. With no fair the committee worried there would be less of a turnout for the audience. To remedy this, McMurdo says, “We’ve really tried to build the weekend versus just having a rodeo.”
To make it family-friendly they will have mutton-busting for kiddos, a hometown bull riding with a first place buckle for amateurs not required to be ICA members and a kid’s pond stocked by Idaho Fish & Game for fishing any time just east of town.
For adults there will be a beer garden (“The Catch Pen”) at the rodeo all weekend and since events will start each evening at 6 p.m., nights are left free to enjoy festivities downtown where the Soldier Creek Brewery and Cliff Bar have teamed up to sponsor street dances and live music.
The rodeo will be $8 for adult admissions and free for kids under 8 years. Lodging in Fairfield is somewhat limited so call early to get rooms at the Prairie Inn and Soldier Mountain Resort or contact Jerry Young to set up at the Iron Mountain RV Park. See you there!