The 2019 Snake River Stampeders line up in front of the old cavalry barn on Garrity Blvd.
Front row, left to right, Heather Miner, Becky Marchbanks, Kayla Blessing and Rylie Boyce. Second row, drill coach Paula Vanhoozer, Bonnie Lair, Cassie Nielsen, Kade Ruby, Brandi, Krajnik, Malerie Asher, Kaycee McFarland, Jessica Ashcraft and team manager Jimmie Hurley. Third row, Lily Weinacht, Shauna Greenfield-Stewart, Jennifer Redmon, Gabi Rhoades, Madison Randall, Erica Weissenbuehler and Jenna Vega.
When you attend this year's Snake River Stampede, you'll be treated to an event that few rodeo fans ever get to see outside Treasure Valley. The rodeo has a unique drill team that rides in the dark with lights on their clothing and on their horses. It is a, first-of-its kind creation of former Stampede executive secretary Jimmie Hurley.
She created it in 1997 when the rodeo moved from the beloved old green, outdoor arena on Garrity Blvd. to the air conditioned indoor arena at the Ford Idaho Center in order to give fans something new. Since then, it has been copied by a few rodeos but none has managed to receive the national acclaim that the Nampa drill team has.
The Snake River Stampeders were invited to perform at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas last December. They were the opening act at the beginning of the third performance, December 8. They are the only drill team ever to be invited to ride at the WNFR and last year was their sixth time to perform there. The first time they rode at the WNFR was the first year they were organized as a riding group. They went back to that prestigious rodeo in 2000 and 2001. Then, in 2002, they rode at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Invitations to ride at the WNFR also came in 2010 and 2014. Then in 2016, they were invited to perform at rodeo's "super bowl", when a couple of weeks before the rodeo they learned that one of the girl's horses had an infectious equine disease and the entire team's horses were quarantined.
The fast paced drill team is made up of young women from the Treasure Valley who volunteer their time for practices, riding in parades and performing every night at the Snake River Stampede.
This year's Stampeder performances are dedicated to the memory of former Stampeder Stacy Wickstrom who passed away in May at the age of 53. Wickstrom rode with the Stampeders for three years, 1998,'99 and 2000 until she regretfully dropped out in order to be able to support her sons in their summer sports activities. She was one of the riders who went to the National Finals Rodeo in 2000. There is a saying that Hurley tells the riders when they have to leave the team for various reasons: "Once a Stampeder, always a Stampeder. No one can take that away from you." Even after she left the team, she was still a Stampeder. The Stampeders rode a brief drill at the outdoor celebration of life that was held at the Wickstrom home and arena.
"We're always looking for ways to keep the performance new and entertaining for Snake River Stampede fans. One year we put lights on the historic old Stampede stage coach and it led the riders into the arena. For our patriotic show, we made an American flag of lights that was carried by a rider. Last year, we had fiddlers lighted who were on the ground and they started the show," Hurley says.
"This year the Stampeders are trying something else that has never been done in the dark at any rodeo.. Starting their show will be a Roman rider coming into the arena standing on the backs of two horses, one foot on each horse. She and her horses will come into the darkened arena and make a loop before exiting in between two rows on Stampeders entering the arena. The daring rider is Becky Marchbanks of Parma. She was picked out of the ranks of Stampeders because she had once tried to learn Roman riding. When asked if she could do it in the dark, she said, "I'll try anything once." It has proved to be an event she has learned well and will be a hit of the show," says Hurley.
There is a dedicated light crew and a set of volunteers, usually comprised of parents and spouses of the riders. Travis Miner of New Plymouth, heads the light crew while Paula Vanhoozer of Meridian is the drill master. Her assistant is Brandi Krajnik who is also a team rider.