Ellensburg Rodeo Arena
The Rodeo Arena is the home of the world famous Ellensburg Rodeo every Labor Day weekend. It also accommodates high school and college rodeos, equine breed shows, roping and penning competitions, and points barrel races. Full facilities are available with the rental of the arena.
The Ellensburg Rodeo started in 1923 and has since risen to rank among the top ten professional rodeos in the country. Cattle came to Ellensburg as a stopover for cattle drives supporting mining camps, and the upper reaches of the Yakima Valley provided verdant forage for raising cattle. The Ellensburg Rodeo coincides with the Kittitas County fair, a celebration of the region’s agricultural traditions.
Prior to European settlement, the Ellensburg area was an important gathering place for the Kittitas, Yakama, and other Tribes. All 14 bands of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation gathered each summer in the Kittitas Valley, one of the last stops before settling into winter camps. The Yakamas were skillful at using horses for hunting and warfare. When they made the difficult transition to reservations, some began cattle ranching.
The area became a center for European settlement after the Northern Pacific Railroad arrived in 1886. Chinese immigrants also arrived to work on the railroad and its attendant businesses, including restaurants, laundries, and door-to-door produce sales.
With limitations on land-use imposed by the removal of Tribes to reservation lands and the arrival of farmers and homesteaders, the rodeo offered an important way to continue the Indigenous meeting grounds tradition for the local Tribes. Since the 1920s, thousands of competitors from the Yakama Nation have participated in (and often won) rodeo events; the Tribe continues to participate in opening ceremonies today.
The Kittitas County Fairgrounds were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
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