Bucking The Pandemic

A Scottie Stampede competitor works to stay in the saddle during the 2019 rodeo. After monitoring the pandemic, rodeo organizers are moving forward with the 2020 event and have dedicated it to the late Charlie Deutscher, one of the founders.

SCOTLAND — For the first time in 55 years, Charlie Deutscher won’t be riding in the saddle at the Scottie Stampede Rodeo Days.

Deutscher passed away last week at age 86, just days before the 2020 stampede Aug. 8-9 at the Scotland rodeo grounds. As a tribute, this year’s event will be dedicated in his honor.

The Scotland VFW launched the original rodeo and, after the event lapsed for a few years, the Scotland Rodeo Club — with Deutscher as one of the leaders — resurrected the event which continues more than a half-century later.

“The Scotland Rodeo Club has a nine-member committee, and we got the Scottie Stampede going,” President Justin Halverson said. “Charlie Deutscher was one of the last two living original members. He kept us moving forward during the lean years.”

Deutscher remained passionate about the Scottie Stampede and took a very hands-on role right up to the end, Halverson said.

Deutscher insisted the 2020 Scottie Stampede remain on schedule even as many other events were canceled because of the pandemic, Halverson said.

“Charlie was one of the loudest voices for holding it this year. It just wasn’t in his DNA not to see the Stampede being held this year,” the president said. “For him, we were going to hold (the rodeo) this year, come hell or high water. When we were kicking around whether to have it, Charlie answered with a loud, ‘Hell, yes!’”

Two months ago, the Scottie Stampede committee moved forward with the 2020 event and prepared for whatever could happen, Halverson said.

“A lot of it came down to the fact that, as South Dakotans, we’re used to adversity,” he said. “When an event is held, there may be things like bad weather. We just need to be ready for it.”

Saturday’s schedule includes the 1:30 p.m. parade, 6:30 p.m. rodeo and the Main Street dance from 9:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. featuring Dustin Evans.

Sunday’s schedule includes an 8 a.m. cowboy church service, 9 a.m. slack (not part of the competition) and 6:30 p.m. rodeo.

Based on competitor numbers, holding this year’s Scottie Stampede was the right move, Halverson said. This year’s entries are far outpacing last year’s number of contestants.

“Right now, we’re sitting at 320 entries. We have almost 80 more than last year. We’re a sanctioned rodeo, and we’re getting interest from several states,” he said. “We think it’s because rodeos weren’t getting started until the Fourth of July (because of the pandemic). Before that, they were getting canceled everywhere.”

Halverson has fielded a number of calls during the last 1-2 weeks. “The phone has been ringing with people asking if we’re having a rodeo,” he said.

The Scotland Rodeo Club isn’t placing restrictions on attendees but does ask they use good judgment, Halverson said.

“We’re asking people to come and enjoy themselves. If you’re feeling sick or have been exposed (to COVID-19), please stay home,” he said. “If you choose to wear a mask, fine, and we have as much hand sanitizer as we can get our hands on. If they feel uncomfortable where they’re sitting (in the stands), they can move to another spot. We’re leaving it up to people.”

Deutscher will be remembered with a short program before Saturday night’s rodeo, Halverson said. The committee will present his wife, Myrna, with a plaque.

The Scottie Stampede marks the second time this week Deutscher will be honored at the arena, Halverson said.

“Charlie’s funeral was held at the rodeo grounds. He wouldn’t have it any other way. Our nine committee members of the Rodeo Club were honorary pallbearers,” Halverson said. “We had the empty saddle in his memory, and the horse-drawn hearse carried him to his final resting place at Rosehill Cemetery next to the rodeo grounds.”

With Deutscher’s passing, his widow will determine who takes his place on the committee, Halverson said.

The Scott Stampede has remained popular through the years and has even attracted fans from around the globe.

“One year, a tour bus came for the Saturday night rodeo. When the bus unloaded, it was a group of Chinese tourists,” Halverson said. “A couple (of the tourists) spoke pretty good English. They came up afterwards and said that the people loved it and enjoyed it so much they would like to come back some day.”

The foreign fascination extended to Europe, Halverson said.

“A family from Mitchell had a foreign exchange student from Germany who really wanted to see a rodeo,” the president said. “By the time the student got here (that summer), he wasn’t able to see the Mitchell rodeo, so his host family brought him down to Scotland for our rodeo. He just loved it.”

The pandemic has made this year unlike any other, and Halverson believes rodeo fans are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to enjoy a regional tradition.

“Scotland and the surrounding communities have made it through this year and just really need some kind of normalcy,” he said.

“We hope everybody comes out, enjoys the rodeo and helps us honor Charlie (Deutscher) and his memory. I think he’s looking down on us and making sure we put on one helluva good rodeo.”

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For more information, check out the Scottie Stampede on Facebook.

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