While it isn't the George Strait Team Roping Classic, the Wildfire Open to the World or the Bob Feist Invitational, Scott and Jo Repp's WestStar Ranch Arena Best of the Best Invitational Open Team Roping and Calf Roping is the biggest open roping both in the Northwest and in the fall.
At a time when many rodeo cowboys are road weary and teetering on the edge of being broke, the WestStar Open comes like a breath of fresh air just before the Ellensburg (Wash.) Rodeo.
The arena is just outside the city limits of Washington state's Rodeo City and the Old Mill Country Store Open Team Roping is held before the first round of competition at the rodeo. With $67,000 up for grabs in the team roping alone, it can be a boost for cowboys who haven't had the best rodeo season. Plus, Repp offers free hookups, a laundry room and lots of other rest and relaxation options for his cowboy guests.
This year, Wade Wheatley and Jade Corkill took advantage of the hospitality and roped five steers in 34.02 seconds-narrowly edging Turtle Powell and Travis Graves, who roped five in 34.07 seconds-to win $10,000 a man.
"I guess you could say they go out of their way to make a good deal," Wheatley said. "They give you hay and grain and food and whisky. The cattle were pretty good-they had some stronger ones and some weaker ones-and they rotated them around. They use a rope barrier and I want to thank them for doing that. I wasn't going to rope with Jade, I was low on funds and was only going to enter once, but he called, so I did. We were like fifth high team back and three of the last five teams broke out. For an old, fat header, I kind of pulled myself up that night."
They also won custom engraved Henry rifles and a custom western table. Every roper who participated received a sweatshirt, cap, mini Pendleton Whisky, $50 Callaway Golf gift card and a gift certificate to a local restaurant.
"I was just going to go once and I decided the night before to enter twice," Corkill said. "I had just seen Wade at the slack in Walla Walla [Wash.] and I knew he didn't have a second partner for it yet, so I called him. I guess it just worked out.
"There's not a lot of big money left during that time of year, so it's nice to do good that time of year. The Repps are really nice people and let everybody stay there and practice and do whatever they want. They don't have to do it for us, it's a great event."
The fast time of the roping-and new arena record-went to defending champ and hometown hero Riley Minor and Justin Davis, who roped their second-round steer in 4.46 seconds.
The Anderson Hay and Grain Open Calf Roping is a match-style, four round tournament that featured 16 of the top ropers in the game. In fact, those 16 represented 16 world titles and 77 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifications. However, the youngest of the bunch, Tuf Cooper, took home the engraved Henry Rifle, custom western table and $3,200 top prize.
The Repps also host the Pendleton Whisky Pro-Am, in which Blaine Linaweaver headed for Tuffy Morrison and Bobby Harris heeled for Jeremy Auman-helping both amateurs win a custom leather saddle sponsored by Classic Ropes.