Organizers of Omak’s “World Famous Suicide Race” say a Seattle-area group is spreading misinformation in its perennial battle to stop the downhill horse race.
The Progressive Animal Welfare Society announced this week that Wrangler, Cellular One, Sears, Pizza Hut, U.S. Bank and Wal-Mart “have withdrawn their support from the notorious race.” The Lynnwood, Wash., group released a letter from a Cellular One Group manager who condemned the Suicide Race, which has killed three horses in the last three years.
However, the letter by Brand Operations Director Jonathan May in Dallas says only that he asked the local Cellular One franchise holder to drop its support of the race.
In fact, Mercury Communications in Wenatchee remains the “official communications sponsor” of the Omak Stampede, according to General Manager Rich Lingel. Lingel said the company’s sponsorship is directed toward the Stampede rodeo, not the separate Suicide Race.
Jan Canfield, office manager of the non-profit Omak Stampede Inc., said Wrangler and the Tonasket branch of U.S. Bank also continue to sponsor the rodeo. Wrangler distributes tickets with jeans sold in the area and the bank donates a rifle to the rodeo’s “all-around cowboy” winner.
“They were never a sponsor of the Suicide Race,” she said.
Canfield said the local Sears and Pizza Hut stores didn’t even sponsor the rodeo, although they may have had Stampede posters in their windows. Similarly, she said Wal-Mart’s only involvement was to buy a full-page advertisement in the rodeo program and to sell T-shirts commemorating the Stampede.
Last year, the Progressive Animal Welfare Society tried to prosecute race organizers under a law delegating authority to humane societies. But Okanogan County officials challenged the action, and a judge ruled the law invalid.
Although clearly annoyed by the persistent PAWS attacks, Canfield saw a silver lining: “Good news, bad news, it’s all news. It all helps.”
Stampede events begin Aug. 5 with a white water raft race. The Suicide Race will be run after rodeo events on Aug. 11-13.
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