PHILOMATH — The entries lined up for Saturday morning’s annual Philomath Frolic & Rodeo Grand Parade provided a celebratory glimpse into the community’s personality.
A rodeo queen calms her horse under a tree near the middle school. A local business owner attaches American flags to each side of his rig while his young son plays nearby in the morning sun. The high school’s cheerleaders work on perfecting their routine. And of course, the long line of log trucks that have become an annual parade tradition serve as a reminder of the community’s heritage.
Standing near a tractor in the high school parking lot, Charles Skirvin waits for the moment to climb up into its seat to pull an old wagon with a water tank. Just two years ago, Paul and Lola Skirvin had been sitting in the wagon’s seat up front as the parade’s grand marshals.
Both were key contributors to the rodeo’s past as well as its future with the donation of the rodeo grounds to the city. The family lost Lola last August and Paul on July 1.
“It’s really a closure of their dynasty here and all they’ve done in the community and we miss them a lot,” said Charles, referring to his three older brothers, Carl, Walt and Paul, that helped establish a rodeo in Philomath in 1983. “It’s nice to have such a celebration for them, too.”
The water tank wagon’s seats were vacant in the parade this time around — a symbol similar to the riderless horse tradition that honored Paul and Lola during this year’s rodeo performances. It’s also fitting that a tractor leads the way.
“He used to have quite a collection of tractors,” said Brian Skirvin, one of Walt’s two sons. “Behind the barn (on his property), he used to have a row of tractors, like 40-plus Caterpillars, John Deeres, all kinds of stuff. He liked fixing them up.”
Besides those familiar presences at the parade, the event also draws in newcomers each year. Antonio Huerta, who is part of a regional Latino cultural organization, was making his second appearance in the Frolic parade to perform rope tricks.
More than a hobby, Huerta’s talents with the rope represent charrería, the historic sport of horsemanship and cattle work that dates to the mid-1500s when Spanish settlers needed the help of indigenous people to handle growing herds.
“As with the work they needed to do every day, they developed great talent,” Huerta said. “To this day, the sport is still very vibrant in different parts of Mexico.”
Huerta, 45, was born in Mexico and moved to the United States at age 20.
“With my everyday life as a kid, I needed to ride a little, do cattle work and obviously used the rope so I had a pretty good foundation,” said Huerta, a University of Oregon admissions counselor. “I lived in San Diego and I took some formal training there and I have been practicing the sport for about 15 years a little bit more competitively.”
The parade appearance also corresponds with the organization’s Noche Cultural celebration, which is coming up July 20 at Island Park in Springfield.