He spent 33 years avoiding parades. Now he’s the grand marshal

Rowdy Barry reflects on a lifetime of bulls, rodeos and memories

Kennewick bullfighter Rowdy Barry talks about bulls, rodeos and memories.
Up Next
Kennewick bullfighter Rowdy Barry talks about bulls, rodeos and memories.

Rowdy Barry is more comfortable in a rodeo arena with an angry bull than he is being the center of attention.

The Kennewick bullfighter, who retired from bullfighting in January, is this year’s grand marshal of the Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo Grand Parade, which gets under way at 10 a.m. Saturday in downtown Kennewick.

“I worked my whole career trying to stay out of the parades,” Barry said. “I thought when I retired, all of this was done. It was a big surprise when I got the letter from the fair office. It’s a great honor.”

Fair Executive Director Lori Lancaster said they wanted to honor Barry, 52, for everything he’s done for the rodeo over the years.

“It would be difficult to overstate just how important Rowdy Barry and his family are to the Horse Heaven Round-Up,” she said. “Rowdy has been to all the great rodeos, works at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas each year, and is president of the PRCA’s Columbia River Circuit.”

“He’s about as well-connected as they come in the rodeo world and has always brought great ideas and insight back to the Horse Heaven Round-Up in Kennewick,” she said.

Rowdy Barry mug.jpg
Rowdy Barry Courtesy David Thomas

And this is not Barry’s first go-round as a parade marshal. He also had the honor last year in Sisters and Othello.

Though he’s retired after 33 years of bullfighting, Barry is not one to sit still. He’s been puttering around in the yard, working on his art and helping the hometown rodeo.

“I retired and got on the Horse Heaven Round-Up committee in January,” Barry said. “I work with the guys putting on the rodeo. We bring in the volunteers, and I’m in charge of the bucking chutes. This week, I’ve been lubing the gates and filling holes in the bucking chutes.”

Lancaster is excited to have Barry on board.

“He’s always been a member of the team and a great friend to the rodeo, and now we’re honored to have him as an official committee member,” she said.

The board has tried to get him to join it for years, he said, but the timing wasn’t right.

“Twenty years ago, I was asked to be on the board, and a time or two since,” Barry said. “But as long as I was a contractor, I didn’t feel it was my place to be on the committee.”

Barry’s family has played a role in the success of the Horse Heaven Round-Up for years.

His wife, Laura Lee, is the long-time coach of the Wrangler Girls drill team, and also helps out in the arena. His daughter, Clay, works in the fair office and will be helping with social media for the rodeo.

Rodeo Barrys.jpg
Miles and Clay Barry

His son, Miles, is a chip off the old block. He will be working the rodeo as a bullfighter, along with Dusty Tuckness and Nate Jestes.

Barry, who worked as a bullfighter at the Horse Heaven Round-Up for nearly 30 years, is proud his son earned a contract to work the rodeo this year.

“I didn’t expect it,” Barry said. “I know he wished for it. For them to add him as part of the team is an honor. It will be good for him to learn from them (Tuckness and Jestes).”

Annie Fowler is a sports writer and freelance journalist based in Kennewick.