Annual rodeo cattle drive brings tradition, and steers, back to the streets of Puyallup

One ornery steer let out a loud moo Friday morning on Meridian Street. The other 39 in the annual Western Rodeo Parade & Cattle Drive ambled through downtown Puyallup unperturbed by the cowbell-ringing crowd gathered to see them.

The parade and cattle drive kicks off a weekend of rodeo at the Washington State Fair.

Crowds lined the route, which mostly followed Meridian, on the way to the fairgrounds.

There were tractors of every color, including one painted to look like a Holstein cow. One tractor pulled a wagon full of animal mascots.

There were plenty of horses. Rule No. 1 for a horse team: the steeds must match.

“It’s easier to drive in teams if they are similar body style, height and weight,” said Amber Weinmann of Lil Britches Pony Farm from Bellingham. She was standing next to four identical black Shetland ponies attached to a wagon.

There are few things a horse likes more than a good ear of corn, but they didn’t seemed distracted by the human-sized one riding a unicycle. He liked applause.

“I can hear you,” he told the crowd. “I got ears.”

Jenny Hamilton of Puyallup attended the parade with her daughter Naomi Montesdeoca and grandson Henry Hallahan.

The two women were in folding chairs on Meridian while 14-month-old Henry ran around them.

Hamilton, 58, has been attending the parade since 1972.

“It’s family tradition,” Montesdeoca, 36, said. “It’s what we do.”

“It’s part of our lives,” Hamilton said.

During her high school years, Hamilton marched with her school band.

Bonney Lake High School’s band was one of several marching bands in the parade. They were probably the only ones playing Haddaway’s “What Is Love”.

Before the parade, the aroma of syrup was thick inside the city’s Pioneer Park Pavilion. Latecomers to the annual Rodeo Breakfast would have found Daffodil princesses and emcee Jamie Gregory sliding to the left and slapping their thighs as Blanco Brown’s “The Git Up” played on a big screen.

Gregory is a volunteer wrangler at the annual rodeo, which he calls one of the best in the nation.

“It’s our community’s best-kept secret,” Gregory said. He volunteers, he said, because it’s the nature of the cowboy.

“Every wrangler has a serving heart and loves to do things in the community to make it a better place,” he said.

The annual breakfast, for years a bargain at $2, had its price raised to $3 this year. The price increase for a plate of pancakes, scrambled eggs and sausages didn’t go over well.

“You would have thought we increased their taxes,” Gregory said.

Craig Sailor has worked for The News Tribune for 20 years as a reporter, editor and photographer. He previously worked at The Olympian and at other newspapers in Nevada and California.