March 26, 2003 — The Cowdeo will continue to buck in Madras under the sponsorship of the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, according to Fairgrounds Manager Lottie Holcomb.
The youth mini-rodeo event, in which kids compete astride bucking sheep and calves, was in danger of being shut down after 34 years. It had been run as a fund-raiser for St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Madras until the Most Rev. Robert Vasa, bishop of the Central and Eastern Oregon Diocese, announced in February that Cowdeo events put children at risk. The church could be held liable for injuries, so it could no longer sponsor such events, he said.
Each October, around 150 children ages 5 to 14 participate in the Cowdeo, drawing a crowd of some 1,000 people to the fairground's indoor arena. The Cowdeo has raised more than $12,000 for the church in the past, and become a tradition looked forward to by the whole community.
Searching for a way to keep the event alive, the St. Pat's Cowdeo Committee, chaired by Bill Bellamy, reviewed several offers from different groups interested in taking over the event, and chose to offer it to the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.
"The Cowdeo Committee decided the Fair Board would be the best option. That way it would never go away from Jefferson County," said Holcomb. She noted the fairgrounds has insurance to cover rodeo-type events.
The church committee members have agreed to pass their years of experience on to the new organizers.
"The St. Pat's Committee members will all stay onboard the first couple of years to help us get it going," Holcomb said.
While the events will stay the same, there will be some changes to make the Cowdeo more of a community event, Holcomb indicated.
Details are still being worked out, but the plan is to invite different service groups around town to take on advertising, the collection of raffle items, ticket sales, and other jobs in exchange for a share of the profits.
The St. Pat's youth group has been offered the use of the fairgrounds kitchen to provide concessions during the event.