Western Fest once again proved to be the popular community celebration that we all want and have come to expect. Wednesday was a busy day downtown and across the river in Rice Park with many well attended events and plenty of family fun. It was great to see so many local organizations get involved and sponsor the various happenings. Thursday evening was reserved for watching our grandson’s baseball game, so Friday evening was going to be a good time to go to the rodeo.

Lots of other folks had the same idea that evening. I haven’t yet heard what the actual attendance number was that night but some of the local Kiwanis Club members said that in all their years of selling tickets at the gates, they had never been as busy as they were that night. The big draw on Friday, of course, was having our hometown professional bareback bronc rider Tanner Aus and a couple of his well-known rodeo mates on the card that evening. They made an early hat waving appearance for the crowd and a few minutes later made everyone proud to see them make great rides on tough horses. The crowd, which looked record-sized, roared with approval and loud applause.

The rented bleachers, which served in place of the grandstand that was destroyed in the big storm last July 15, gave the Lee-Mar Ranch arena a slightly different look and made the crowd seem larger, which is always good to see. There’s no doubt that folks from a sizeable area enjoy coming here to see the rodeo. I may be off by a year or so but I believe this was the 60th year that a rodeo has been held at the Lee-Mar Ranch. It’s a great setting for the event and having it continue would probably make rodeo founders Lee and Martha Mooney very proud.

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Saturday afternoon’s Western Fest Grand Parade also seemed to attract more folks than in recent years. The cool weather didn’t seem to be a deterrent and instead may have brought more people out than usual. Riding in the parade gives you a good view of who all is there and how many folks show up for the fun. Almost everywhere along the entire parade route, it seemed like there were more people than in past years. The 16-block parade route is crowded with folks from one end to the other. Every block along the way is different. Some are crowded with guests and extended families while other blocks have gatherings of old friends who get together each year to watch the parade and visit.

You often see the same folks sitting in the same places each year and you get trained to look for them near their normal spots. Each year I think about estimating the number of folks who show up to watch the parade and every year it seems to get harder. Putting a pencil to it, my guess is that this year’s parade attracted somewhere between 3,500 and 4,000 folks. Of course the weather should only get a bit if credit for that. I hear many good comments about the variety and quality of the parade entrees, the bands and the drum corps and also the length of the parade. Folks seem to know that the Western Fest parade is a good show and worth their time. That doesn’t just happen. It’s a big event and takes a lot of work and coordinating to pull it off each year.

Our thanks go out to the parade organizers and the participants for making this a fun event. Like all parades, the Western Fest parade costs money to put on and there are a very limited number of direct donations with which to pay those expenses. The Western Fest sweepstakes tickets go a long way toward covering many of those parade expenses as well as other expenses for the community celebration.

Buying a ticket not only gets you a chance at winning a nice amount of money but also gets you into the street dances and helps make Western Fest possible. Granite Falls is fortunate to have a sustainable and lasting community celebration. Many communities struggle to keep a summer celebration going but Western Fest has been successful through the years and has become a big part of this community’s fabric. Volunteers from many local organizations play a big role in making it all happen.

The hard working Western Fest committee deserves much credit for their very good work. There have been many people who have served on that committee over the years and some who have been there for every year since the beginning in 1980. That’s an amazing legacy of community involvement. They each deserve a big thank you for their good work and dedication. We need to see Western Fest continue for many more years with as much success as this year’s celebration. Thanks again to everyone who worked so hard and volunteered so much of their time to make this past week a great one for the community.