By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Mac, Amity residents reign over St. Paul Rodeo

DeVore is queen of the 78th annual rodeo, the biggest Fourth of July rodeo event in the nation. Eichler is a princess, along with Jordann McClister of St. Paul.

They will lead the grand entry at each performance of the rodeo — 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 2, through Saturday, July 6, with an additional matinée at 1:30 p.m. on the Fourth. They’ll also carry flags and escort winners of each event, such as bull riding, calf roping and barrel racing.

Being St. Paul Rodeo royalty is a dream come true for both Eichler and DeVore, who grew up attending the event. Both said they decided to try out for not just any rodeo court, but for St. Paul specifically, because they love its size, variety and wide range of activities, including a Wild West art show and children’s carnival.

“It’s fun to be part of a rodeo of this caliber,” DeVore said.

DeVore is a 2010 graduate of McMinnville High School. She will be a senior at Western Oregon University this fall, studying education and health.

She rides Jag, her 12-year-old palomino quarter horse, in the rodeo. He’s been her partner for six years, through high school rodeo, barrel racing and professional drill team events with the Rodeo Fly Girls.

Her favorite event at the St. Paul Rodeo is barrel racing, a timed event in which horses make quick turns around a pattern of barrels.

She’s a barrel racer herself, so she’s thrilled to see the best competitors in the sport ride at the St. Paul event. “They’re really the best of the best,” she said. “Maybe one day I can compete at that level.”

Eichler is a 2012 graduate of Amity High School. A Chemeketa Scholar, she will spend a second year at the community college before transferring to Oregon State University in 2014 to study agri-business.

She rides Buddy, a 14-year-old quarter horse she’s been riding for years in 4-H and Amity High equestrian team gaming. She also has ridden him at St. Paul before — she  and her sister were thrilled to have a chance to carry sponsor flags in the grand entry.

When she has a chance to watch rodeo events, she said, she enjoys barrel racing and tie-down roping. In the latter event, a cowboy on horseback lassoes a calf, jumps off his horse and ties the calf’s feet together.

When she and DeVore applied for positions on the St. Paul Court, they faced a series of interviews and qualifying tests. They had to give a speech while on horseback and demonstrate their knowledge of rodeo sports. And they had to put their horses through trail and horsemanship patterns to show they had the necessary riding skills.

Since they were chosen, they’ve been busy promoting the rodeo. They’ve spoken to various service clubs and other groups, visited other rodeos and ridden in parades.

They got up at 2 a.m. on Saturday morning so they could ride in the Rose Festival Parade — they had to arrive at 5 a.m., decorate their horses with roses and be ready to go at 7 a.m. for judging. They were on horseback from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

“Our horses handle things pretty well. They’ve been exposed to rodeos and crowds,” DeVore said. “But the Rose Festival was a little different — Jag had never walked over the Burnside Bridge before.”

Buddy also was a little surprised by the crowds, Eichler said, but he enjoyed showing off. In fact, she said, she’s sure he was checking himself out in the big, reflective windows on the parade route.

As soon as the parade was over, they said good-bye to their horses as Eichler’s dad took off for Sisters with the horse trailer. They followed after attending an official Rose Festival luncheon. That evening, they rode at the Sisters Rodeo.

DeVore and Eichler also represented St. Paul in the Rose Festival Starlight Parade, this time without their horses. And they’ll ride in the Newberg Old-Fashioned Festival Parade later in July.

Next year, DeVore said she may focus on her barrel racing or try out for another rodeo-related court, such as Miss Oregon Rodeo. She’s not eligible for the St. Paul court again, since she’s already been queen.

But Eichler is, and she’s planning to try out for the court again. She hopes to wear the queen’s crown in 2014. 

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