Sometimes I avoid talking too much about one subject or another when it comes to these throwback blogs. I tend to write a lot about Rodeo during the Summer months since its what’s on everyone’s brains as Labor Day approaches, so during the rest of the year I like to explore different pieces and pour time into other subjects.
Though I wasn’t planning to pull back into Rodeo over the last few weeks, opportunity came knocking. Last week when I walked into the store, I noticed a lot of boxes on the round table that we sit at for meetings and celebrations. I’ve had a lot of great ideas, memories and conversations around that table in the last year and a half, so I tend to pay close attention to what’s going in this area. I think it’s sort of the ‘water cooler’ of the building. As I wrote the last sentence down, it struck me as a side note that the real water cooler is actually right there too. While that’s not important, the fact is, this corner tends to bring about some really good memories.
I could immediately tell that I would be interested in these items that Brad was going through. They were vintage, and they screamed Ellensburg to me. The first thing that caught my eye were two jackets hanging on the backs of the dining chairs. Both were silver, embroidered and accented with red white and blue. These Jackets belonged to Brad and Connie Fitterer at some point during Brad’s time as director. As soon as I registered what these were, I asked if I could photograph some of the memorabilia. Thankfully Brad agreed without reservation, before telling me that they came from his house, and would be making their way to the Rodeo Hall of Fame.
While I pulled out news clippings and snapped a few shots of a lovely handmade vest, I started thinking about how great it would be for these nostalgic items to get a second chance at life. After all, for many of those who were raised in the valley, Rodeo is an iconic tradition that’s deeply ingrained in the culture they grew up in. The display and archiving of these historic pieces will continue to celebrate that nostalgia.
As I started capturing the photos, I thought about history that shaped my own life , growing up in the Puget Sound. Fishing, the industrial history of Tacoma, stories of failed utopian societies that tried to make a go of a dream and logging are all components that I find fascinatingly unique to where I’m from. Walking along Ruston Way and reading a description on a statue reminds me of my Grandmother, who used to love taking us to play on the waterfront.
You see, for me, the most important part of sharing information is allowing others to really feel something. Antique items, written words, photographs and anecdotes that allow you to take yourself back to a time that made you feel warm, loved or a part of something bigger. That’s exactly how I feel when I think about the culture where I come from, and I know that’s exactly how so many Ellensburg natives feel about the culture here – one that has been heavily influenced by the Ellensburg Rodeo.
From all of the time I’ve now spent in Ellensburg, talking with those involved in the Rodeo who loveits history, listening to their stories and watching them light up as they recall their memories, I knew that I needed to continue to document Rodeo pieces. No matter what time of year, a newspaper clipping might remind someone of sitting on the sidewalk, enjoying an ice cream cone on a warm day while they watched the parade with their parents. The granddaughter of a former Rodeo Princess could beam with pride, joy and memories when they see a sash they recognize.
Suddenly its no longer about the sash, its about memories with grandma taking care of horses or baking cookies. Its about warm recollections of times with family and friends; things that shape who we are.
Though everyone doesn’t relate objects and photographs to feelings and fond memories, so many of us do. A sound, a smell, an old hat and jacket; sometimes they’re just enough to bring us back to the best times in our lives, if only for a moment.