April 19, 2023
Last year, when a second lap around the arena at Chief Joseph Days for the stagecoach honored the Prout family members Karen, Gary, and Max for taking the stagecoach around the country, who could have thought there would be more? Here we are again, but this time as the Grand Marshalls for the 2023 Chief Joseph Days celebration.
The Prouts began their volunteerism at early ages: Gary and Max, both as Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, helped pick up trash and empties each day after the rodeo, and Karen was a regular at the grounds as her father’s shadow and then Queen of the 1966 show.
After high school, the U.S. Armed Forces took Gary and Max away from Joseph to serve in the Navy and away from Wallowa County as adults starting their new lives and families. It was similar for Karen after graduation, but she returned to Joseph almost every year to watch and enjoy the celebration.
Karen and Gary settled in Pendleton, Oregon, but Karen remained closely tied with dear friends Darlene and David Turner. In one conversation, Karen recalls Darlene saying she wasn’t sure how much help they would have at the next parade, so Karen said they would volunteer. Thus, Gary and Karen began Chief Joseph Days’ volunteerism again!
That was the beginning of traveling with Turners and learning about being teamsters. Oh, the wonderful memories! Many friends were made, and the fun was unforgettable!
That partnership continued until Dave needed a knee replacement. Gary and Karen took over the stagecoach and enjoyed much encouragement from the Turners until about 2010! That was the beginning of learning “what we didn’t know!”
The same year they decided the coach needed a bit of brightening up. It had yet to be repainted since being refurbished in 1966! The process included tracing the stencils, repainting, constructing new canvas upholstery, and putting the stencils back. That year they were rewarded by Chief Joseph Days as the Volunteers of the Year.
Then in 2012, a new era began with a new team, Sadie and Skeeter, half quarter horse and half Shire draft horses. Gary moved to Joseph weeks before the rodeo and called Brother Max (who said he knew nothing about horses!) The two have many stories of “getting the new farm team” ready to traipse through public events, perk up but not run from cheering crowds, and stand for sightseers to come up for photo ops.
That’s when the history with the Turners and coaching from friends Larry and Juanita Waters was especially helpful. That celebration went off without a hitch, and there have only been a few minor instances since! To this day, Gary’s remark about his knowledge of horses is, “I don’t know much about horses, but I know quite a bit about two horses!”
While traveling with the stagecoach around Oregon, Washington, and Idaho until 2021, the Prouts continued volunteering at the rodeo grounds. Every year, they take on a special project to improve the visitor’s experience. Max and Gary were a part of installing the bathroom fixtures in the Thunder Room’s nice new bathrooms in 2019 and continue to take up residency at the rodeo grounds each summer to be on hand for the comradery and to work on whatever needs doing to keep things in shape for the celebration. Karen is at the grounds on weekends to see what she can do.
Gary and Max have been recipients of the prestigious Justin Boot Award for volunteering, supporting the Western lifestyle, and contributing to the spirit of rodeo. Gary received his award in 2019, and Max in 2020.
While Gary is “retired,” he continues his volunteerism at Chief Joseph Days and the Echo Golf Course, where he is the “go-to” guy to fix anything, helping keep the water system operating and the gophers at bay. Karen works as a Program Manager for a Community Action Program in Pendleton, CAPECO, managing a Representative Payee Service for clients in rural counties in 12 Oregon counties. Max is retired from the Coast Guard and a snowbird returning to the grounds at Chief Joseph Days to keep it tidy and watch over the campground as “camp host.”
Congratulations to Karen, Gary, and Max, the 2023 Chief Joseph Days Grand Marshals, for their continuing representation and volunteer work!