By Becca Robbins

HAINES — As Bill Taylor and Ken Bain worked Monday on last-minute preparations for the 28th-annual Haines Stampede, they took a moment to reflect on when they resurrected the event more than a quarter century ago.

“Everything here was junk, it was falling apart,” said Bain, vice president of the Stampede Association. “We were hammering nails all the way till the Fourth.”

Bain recalled that he and Taylor brought their kids to the rodeo grounds when the children were little. He said his son is now 37 and the arena director.

“This is the only thing they know about the Fourth of July,” Bain said.

Taylor’s granddaughter, Cylie Lagao, the East Queen for the annual Shriners All-Star Football Game in Baker City, said she loves her family’s annual ritual.

“I’ve been coming here since I was two years old,” she said. “I grew up in these stands.”

A new event has been added to the lineup this year for ages 8-14 — the wild pony races. Although Taylor said they did an exhibition for it last year, this year kids have a chance to earn a belt buckle in that event.

Both Taylor and Bain spoke of their rodeo experience dating back to high school and the competitive structure of the sport making it so that cowboys had to buy memberships and win enough prize money in order to compete. This wasn’t something they wanted for their rodeo in Haines.

The stampede is an “open rodeo” so anyone can compete. Due to the jackpot prize climbing as high as $1,500 to $2,000, Taylor said sometimes professionals will even stop by Haines and compete in the slack for a chance to walk away with a couple thousand dollars. For Taylor, this level of competition is exciting.

“We want to keep it a local hometown rodeo, but sometimes it’s nice to see the big guys come around,” said Taylor, president of the Stampede Assocation.

In addition to the open team roping contest, there’s also a Baker/Union County team roping division to encourage even more locals to compete.

Taylor said they’re expecting a crowd of roughly 3,000, and this year they’re hoping to get a more precise head count by having people buy tickets that can be collected at the gate.

In addition to those who fill the stands, Taylor said about 50 to 75 volunteers and others throughout the area help them make the Stampede possible.

“We couldn’t do this without the volunteers that step up,” Taylor said.

Bain said neighbors even lend equipment, let them take dirt for the arena or help out with whatever organizers need.

“It’s a phenomenal community,” Bain said. “Without the support of the community this wouldn’t happen.”

Taylor mentioned a surprise awaiting fans today in the middle of the rodeo courtesy of the Stampede’s partner, the Shriners Hospital for Children.

Although he wants to keep it a surprise, he expects the reveal to bring tears to people’s eyes as it did for him when he spoke of it.

While he said there are no changes to the arena this year, after the rodeo they plan to get hard at work on replacing the arena’s footings. Bain also mentioned working toward replacing the rock-hard dirt with arena sand in the fall.

Taylor said about 500 contestants signed up to compete over the course of the two-day event and paid between $50 and $80 to enter.

Admission is $8 for adults, $4 for kids aged 5 to 12 and free for kids 4 years old and younger.

The concert and fireworks following today’s rodeo are free for all.