Volunteer labor, donated materials, and County funds help fix safety problems at Crook County Fairgrounds

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Crooked River Roundup board members and volunteers have been working hard to improve safety conditions at the rodeo grounds. Larry Koops (left) and another volunteer are seen here with freshly-painted rodeo fencing.

Rodeo injuries have prompted local citizens and businesses to drastically improve the fairground's animal containment structures.
   "The old gates and fences were at the point where the safety of the riders was at risk, the safety of the animals was at risk," said Crooked River Roundup (CRR) Treasurer Doug Smith. "There was actually a national finals horse last year that got a leg caught in the chute and that cut it up pretty good. We also had one get in the guardrail back there that got cut up."
   Smith is confident that all the precautions they have taken to improve the facility will be safe for everyone involved.
   "The whole idea of everything we've done is to try to come up with a way that an animal couldn't hurt themselves," Smith said. "There are no rough edges and the holes are not wide enough to get hooves through."
   With the help of local citizens and businesses, the freshly renovated Crook County Fairgrounds is almost ready for rodeo season.
   "It's pretty spectacular to see," Smith said. "At this point, we're probably 75 to 80 percent done."
   In January, the Crook County Court unanimously agreed to pay the requested amount of $48,733 for the materials needed to improve the fairgrounds. As it occasionally goes with construction ventures, the material costs have exceeded the initial estimates.
   "The project is somewhere around $54,000 to $55,000 right now," Smith said. "We still have to buy all the paint for the corrals and wire for the welder. The additional funds are coming out of the Crooked River Roundup, the money we've made off of operating the races and roundup."
   Also, the preliminary estimate of 611 total volunteer hours needed to complete the project has been surpassed.
   "We're going to be way over those 611 hours," Smith said. "There are two of us on the board that will probably have close to that each."
   A crew of about 20 volunteers has been busy all winter mending fences, bucking chutes, and corrals in preparation for the upcoming rodeo season. The restorations have included tearing down, welding and repainting the worn and dilapidated areas through volunteer efforts. Many local citizens and businesses have donated labor and supplies to the project.
   As a small example, ABC Fence owner Larry Smith has been welding some of the fences and gates and Prineville Sand and Gravel has donated all the concrete needed for the job.
   The group of volunteers is hoping to have the rodeo grounds finished by the time the Crook County High School rodeo starts in mid-May.
   "During the high school rodeo, we can make sure everything works and all the kinks are out of it," Smith said. "When the roundup comes around, it'll be tried and tested. It's still got quite a ways to go before it's done."
   In addition to the renovations the CRR members have taken on, the fairground board members have scheduled new paint for the grandstands, completion of the new wheelchair accessible platform and rewiring the electrical box that is currently inside the bull pen.
   "We're starting to see the light," Smith said. "It's something that the community should be proud of when we get done."
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