This year’s Wild Weippe Rodeo Grand Marshals, Gary and Shelly Stewart, have been married for 37 years and have two sons, Drew and Toby, and three grandkids.
Both were born and raised in Weippe with roots that run deep. Shelly’s mom, Mrs. Gibbar was a teacher for Weippe where both graduated from high school; Gary in 1973 and Shelly in 1978. Shelly later returned to school as the head cook for Timberline Schools and has been there for the past 29 years. It’s amazing to think she’s fed the last two generations of kids in Weippe!
Gary was a logger for Cory Medley of Lewiston. It will be two years in December, Gary was pushed into an early retirement following a stroke and heart attack. Gary is not one to be idle for long and is still adapting to being home instead of in the woods. He spends a lot of time mowing their big yard on Three Mile Drive.
They both enjoy four wheeling with friends, and are actively involved with the PLAY Trail committee, he likes fishing and hunting.
I asked Gary if he used to rodeo, Gary is kind of quiet.
“Yeah, a bit.”
I knew he used ride the bulls and was pretty good at it too! There had to be more to his story.
Gary tells me he started in high school, with some of his friends that rode.
Shelly adds that his mom, Joyce Stewart wouldn’t sign for him when he first started as he was too young to officially ride, so Gary forged her name. She loves the rodeo and still goes all the time. Shelly’s mom is also a big enthusiast when it comes to the rodeo, “She loved the barrel racing. She and my brother always counted the seconds and had a contest to see who was closer.”
Gary tells me he rode for about 10 years and then, “I got married, you have to quit that stuff when you’re married.”
I sadly suspected that was all he had to say on that topic. Fortunately for this reporter, Shelly knows more and proudly shares, “there are two beautiful belt buckles at home. One from 1974 and the other in 1982,” which she remembers well, it was the year they were married.
“It was at Border Days in Grangeville he laid in the mud until the bull walked away. There wasn’t a clown that year, there was no one to help him. He was unable to move, as the bull was right on him.” Shelly said she held her breath until he was up, which seemed an eternity. “I’m glad he’s done,” she added.
Our paper doesn’t always cover Border Days in Grangeville, but I took the liberty to look into the archives at the Clearwater Tribune to see if there was anything written for the Wild Weippe Rodeo in 1974 and I was rather excited to have found the following in an article published in the Aug. 15, 1974 issue of the Clearwater Tribune:
“A local rider earned $310, a buckle, and numerous slaps on the back as he walked away with the first place position in the bull riding events at the annual Weippe Rodeo. Gary Stewart of Weippe scored 77 points ridng a prize stock bull named ‘Rattler’ in the second day of rodeo activities.”
These days Gary and Shelly experience the rodeo outside the arena, in the grandstands. Shelly used to help in the kitchen during the rodeo before she and Gary were married and then for a few more years before the kids were born. Gary enjoyed helping the kids in the chutes for the kids’ mutton busting. He also spent several years “clowning around” with Eddy White, Shelly’s cousin.
There have been some changes throughout the years. Seating has been added and the parking situation has greatly improved. The cookhouse has been refurbished and is more efficient. All the work has been done with volunteers! Thank goodness for volunteers!
“We all depend upon each other up here,” said Gary, “The rodeo would be gone if it weren’t for volunteers. It takes a lot. They’ve been working on it a year at a time. We have an amazing little community with a lot of people getting together to help. There’s an appreciation of a great sport, we learn teamwork. It’s been a way of life, a way of making a living.”
Shelly and Gary would like to thank the board members for the honor of being Grand Marshalls for this year’s rodeo festivities, and are looking forward to seeing all of you Aug. 17 and 18, at the Wild Weippe Rodeo!