Omak Rodeo and Stampede

In today’s hyper-connected and fast-paced world—are you reading this on a phone or a tablet? Have you shared it on Facebook or Instagram yet?—it’s easy to feel like there’s no time to actually enjoy life as it’s happening in real time.

That’s one of the reasons we love living on beautiful Lake Chelan—when you’re sitting by the deep and clean waters, or enjoying the stunning view from a few hundred feet in the air, there’s simply no way to be any place but the here-and-now.

That’s one of the reasons we love and look forward each and every year to the Omak Rodeo and Stampede, it’s a real-life, one-of-a-kind event that reminds us of the thrill and excitement of enjoying life in the moment. Taking place the second week in August since 1933, the rodeo is a true taste of the frontier culture that dominated and defined life here in Central Washington since the arrival of white settlers in the second half of the 19th century.

A Little History: Omak, Omak Rodeo and Stampede, and Family Fun

The brainchild of two Okanogan County stockmen, Tim Bernard and Leo Moomaw (who, let’s face it, was perhaps born to be a cattle rancher), the rodeo was conceived as a blatant ploy to drum up interest in sleepy downtown Omak (a small town about an hour’s drive from Chelan).

Bernard and Moomaw managed to secure appearances by many of the leading lights of the pre-War rodeo scene—Stub Bathlemay, Floyd Cook, Bert Evans—names that may be lost to history for many of us, but still maintain a hold on the imagination and memories of the rodeo scene.

Be aware that in those pre-television—never mind pre-Internet days—public life in large part revolved around these grand events and social gatherings. In addition to the standard rodeo events—bull riding, steer wrestling, bareback riding and team roping—this year’s event features a Native American encampment and pow wow, a carnival, parade and kids’ events.

A Taste for (Old-Fashioned) Thrills

Perhaps the most-anticipated event of this jam-packed weekend is the terrifying-sounding “Suicide Race,” which is run much as it was in its debut back in 1935: Horses and their riders ascend a steep bluff overlooking the Okanogan River; then race down a seemingly impossible sheer face, cross the river, and then dash to the finish line.

If you’re already planning on visiting the Chelan region in August, we can’t recommend the Omak Rodeo and Stampede highly enough. This year’s event is August 10-13; be sure to buy your tickets in advance.

If you have any interest in Western, rodeo and cattle culture, or Washington State history, the Omak Rodeo and Stampede is a must-see event, and a beloved and powerful reminder of the United States’ frontier heritage. And if you find yourself dry, dusty and tuckered out after all the excitement, you know where you can go for some cool, clean relaxation.