OMAK - The 2019 Omak Stampede was a money maker.
The event turned a profit for the first time since before wildfires raced across Okanogan County in 2014 and 2015, volunteers, friends and supporters learned during the rodeo’s annual banquet Nov. 16.
The banquet, at the Omak Elks Club, also served as coronation night for 2020 Miss Omak Stampede Shelby White, Twisp. She succeeds Vanessa Pershing, Tonasket.
“We made some money this year,” said Stampede board President Leon Hoover. “There were butts in the seats.”
Treasurer Marilyn Oestreich reported the group started the year with $94,594.16 in the bank and ended with $98,916.69. Expenditures were $630,548.53 and income was $638,283.48, for a profit of $7,734.95.
The Tough Enough to Wear Pink cancer fundraising promotion during the Friday rodeo on Aug. 9 raised $8,100, so Confluence Health, Mid-Valley Hospital and North Valley Hospital each will get $2,700 to help patients with cancer screening and related costs.
Hoover said 2019 was “an awesome year” for the rodeo organization, with judges praising the condition of the arena’s grounds. He acknowledged Casey Knowles and Bass Williams for their arena work.
“It’s not just our show, it’s everybody’s show,” Hoover said, recognizing volunteers, board members, other rodeos’ boards and the city staff.
Omak Mayor Cindy Gagne echoed that, stressing the importance of the relationship between the city and Stampede.
During the business meeting, new additions to the Friends of the Stampede group were confirmed, and Billy Smith and Hailey Gates were added to the associate board. Director Dan Salkawske headed the nominating committee.
Hoover named Mike Holsworth as committeeman of the year for his efforts as parking director. Holsworth, who is in the Navy and takes leave to work on Stampede weekend in August, was not present.
Royalty Director Jeff Demmitt praised outgoing queen Pershing, who he said matured during her year. He said he tried to scare her at the beginning of her year with how tough the job would be, but she stepped up with confidence.
“What I see is someone who completely understands the world,” he said, adding that he feels she will go far in life.
“It was the best year of my life,” said Pershing.
She said she’s gotten better at speaking in public and found during her travels that “everywhere, people had a connection with Omak.”
Pershing said she asked her predecessor, Kaelin Marchand, what her favorite place was during her year, and Marchand replied that “ ‘nothing is better than your own rodeo.’ ”
Pershing said she found that to be true and will always hold the experience close to her heart. She thanked her family and others - especially Demmitt and co-director Kathy Talmadge - for their support.
“You guys have been my rock,” she told Demmitt and Talmadge.
“I’m proud of you,” said Talmadge. “I’ve been honored to watch you blossom.”
“You’ll have a great year,” Pershing told White. “You have so many incredible people backing you up.”
White, 17, is the daughter of Tom and Erin White, and has two brothers, Tanner and Cody.
She is a senior at Liberty Bell High School and a Running Start sophomore at Wenatchee Valley College at Omak. She said she hopes to transfer to Washington State University and pursue a career as a surgeon.
Demmitt said fundraising for this year’s queen scholarship totaled $6,825, thanks to fundraisers and a generous donation of $5,000 during last winter’s queen dinner and auction.
Okanogan County Commissioner Jim DeTro served as auctioneer for a live auction at the banquet that raised $1,180. Items on the auction block included a taste of the Methow basket, embellished steer skull, photo of a horse, cowboy knife and a breakfast-themed basket.
In addition, those attending were invited to make $20 donations after the event was over.
Longtime Stampede volunteer and honorary (emeritus) board member Ed Thiele gave the invocation. Gagne was mistress of ceremonies.