Cover Story: Back in the saddle
By Kelly Moore
After hanging their hats on the Cowboy Supper Show in 2011, the owners of the Rockin' B Ranch recently announced they are gearing up its 2014 return.
Musicians Scott and Pamela Brownlee started the shows in 1994 as a way to make use of an empty barn on their property. Over the next 17 years, the show evolved into an Inland Northwest staple, featuring local musicians and ranch-style food.
The show's return comes just in time for the 20th-anniversary season of the business and will include shows on the second weekend of every month, June through October. Shows will include evening performances on Fridays and Saturdays with an earlier matinee on Sundays.
The Brownlees announced the show's retirement early in the 2011 season and ended with a record year - and no definite plans for the future of the barn.
"The break was essential so we could relook at our lives and make each other's lives a priority again," Pamela Brownlee said.
Since retiring the show, the Rockin' B Ranch has continued operations as an event center. The barn has since hosted myriad events, including fundraisers, memorial services and weddings.
"It was a really nice way to keep people in the barn," Pamela Brownlee said. "It's a character of its own. When people come inside, it just comes alive. We thought that was something unique to the cowboy supper show, but it's not. People have come in and made it their own, and it's been really sweet."
Some of the memorable events for the Brownlees included a Vacation Bible School and Shriner's fundraiser.
She said organizers from each type of event came with a different set of expectations, but experience with the cowboy supper show prepared her and Scott for the shift in business.
"When there's an event here like a wedding, there is a heavier emphasis on us to make it the best we can because it's an once-in-a-lifetime thing," Pamela Brownlee explained. "We are able to handle that because we learned that quality in our shows."
With the return of the cowboy supper shows, the Brownlees intend to continue to operate as an event center, with booking dates available outside of performance weekends.
In addition to developing a new business model for the ranch, the Brownlees have continued to play with fellow band mates as the Riders of the Rockin' B. Performances during the supper show hiatus included playing at local senior centers and conventions as well as traveling to California to play at the Microsoft holiday party.
After a couple years of resetting and refocusing, the Brownlees said they eventually found themselves less busy, rejuvenated and more up to the idea of reviving the shows that got their business started.
"We had people stopping us all the time to say, We understand why you stopped the shows, but we really miss it!'" Scott Brownlee explained. "Then we started missing it, too."
Pleas to start back up came from all directions, Scott Brownlee said. In addition to strangers at the grocery store, the couple was also starting to hear revival requests from band mates and former staff.
The shows will resume with the same band members: Sam Mazzola on guitar and vocals, JayDean Ludiker on fiddle and vocals, Gordon Grove on the pail and vocals, Scott Brownlee on bass and vocals and Pamela Brownlee on vocals.
In regards to the format of the upcoming shows, the Brownlees say patrons can expect to hear some of the band's favorite music they've performed throughout the years, along with a few requests they've received. The pre-dinner shootout will be slightly different from the 2011 version and more similar to what they started with in 1994.
This year, they will be skipping out on stocking the mercantile, but one of the Brownlees' favorite aspects of the show - featuring local, young musicians on stage as the warm-up to every show - will also return.
"We're really excited about doing it," Pamela Brownlee said. "It's something we can do for people we know who have missed it, and it's a second chance for those people who always meant to come, but never made it out."
And, of course, Sheriff Dusty Bicuspid, the toothless alter ego of Scott Brownlee, will be returning to entertain guests and charm the "purty" ladies.
"Dusty will definitely be back with his storytelling," Pamela Brownlee said. "He is the star of the whole business."
More information and tickets for the shows will be available at www.rockinbranch.com near the end of February.