It takes a community of volunteers to put on the Ellensburg Rodeo. “There are literally hundreds of volunteers for the Ellensburg Rodeo,” said Brad Fitterer, past Ellensburg Rodeo Board member. Many of those volunteers participate through their involvement in groups such as Top Hands, Gold Buckle Club, the Ellensburg Rodeo Posse, the Ellensburg Rodeo Past Royalty, and the Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame.
The Top Hands could be called the left and right hands of the rodeo board. “There are always a couple Top Hand members assigned to every Rodeo Board member,” Fitterer said. “They were created because the Ellensburg Rodeo Board needed help in a lot of areas.”There are 17 Rodeo Board members. Top Hands help in all tasks. Top Hands are critical in assisting with parking and security during rodeo. Several Rodeo Board members started on the Top Hands.”They’ve allowed us to know there’s a good pool of potential Rodeo Board members. There isn’t a huge learning curve with them because they already know quite a bit about the rodeo,” Fitterer said. “But the Rodeo Board has been careful to say you don’t have to be a Top Hand to become a Rodeo Board member.”
The Gold Buckle Club offers another form of much needed help – financial. “It was set up as an organization to help us financially,” Fitterer said. “Some members of the organization also help us in other ways.” Gold Buckle members pay a $1,600 annual membership fee. They receive a gold buckle, rodeo tickets and other amenities. “The Gold Buckle Club has close to 155 members,” Fitterer said. “Many of them do it just to support the Ellensburg Rodeo.” Fitterer said when he travels to meetings with other rodeo representatives, there is a lot of interest in how the Gold Buckle Club was formed and how it operates. “A couple of other rodeos have initiated similar clubs, but none have yet achieved the status of the Gold Buckle Club.”
The Ellensburg Rodeo Posse are the traveling ambassadors for the rodeo. “They do so much good public relations for the rodeo,” Fitterer said. “They also offer tremendous support to the Royal Court.”
The Ellensburg Past Rodeo Royalty help with the annual Rodeo Queen coronation dinner, and also assist with hospitality during rodeo weekend.
The Ellensburg Rodeo Hall of Fame assist by staging the hall of fame inductions each year on rodeo weekend.
Another group, not rodeo-related, that provides assistance to the rodeo is the Yakama Nation. “They provide support just by being here every year,” Fitterer said. “This year they’re moving their encampment to the north side of the Eighth Street gate.”