The Strength of Welcome

A proper welcome sets the tone of a meeting and when done right, can have a strong-productive impact by creating positive feelings between people and motivating whoever is receiving the welcome, to play their role. 

I recently attended the Ellensburg Rodeo and witnessed a wonderful welcome.  The announcer was inclusive of all groups within the stadium including veterans, riders, fans, leadership board that organized the event, and the Yakima Nation.  The effect of the warm and inviting welcome was a strengthened sense of community as each group was recognized.

Veterans were thanked for their commitment and sacrifice to defend our country so we, the citizens of the United States, may have freedom.  Riders were acknowledged for their willingness to compete and sustain the vitality of the cowboy-way.  Fans were appreciated for their attendance and spending money to support the rodeo.  The leadership board was thanked for their time spent bringing resources together and coordinating many things in order to conduct the event.  Then there was the Yakima Nation.  This was my favorite part of the entire trip. 

To kick-off the day, riders from the Yakima Nation rode horseback down the side of a hill.  Fans from inside the stadium watched as 10 riders, dressed in traditional form, slowly and deliberately approached the stadium.  It was powerful as the announcer told their story of resilience to live off the land and survive harsh winters because they understood how to work with the land.  He went on to mention that Ellensburg is the land of the Yakima People and they are a strong People because they know where they have come from.  When the ten riders entered the stadium so too did another 100 Yakima people, ranging in age from elders to children.  They formed a circle at the center of the arena.  Then something wonderful happened.  The announcer invited attendees from the stands to join the Yakima Nation to symbolize one community.  I took my 7 and 4 year olds to the floor of the arena.  Over the course of 20 minutes about 400 people migrated from the stands to the dirt floor.  Two circles were formed.  Yakima Tribe maintained the inside circle and guests the outside.  Then the Yakima began to move in a counter-clockwise rotation so that every attendee from the outer ring could shake the hand of each tribal member.  The impact was powerful.  My kids thought it was the coolest to be inside the arena giving high-fives and seeing up-close the full traditional outfits.  I was thankful for the opportunity to share the experience of another Native community, “cousins” as I told my girls, so that I could reinforce how special it was to be who they are.   The experience brought back the words I heard as a child from my Uncle, “Be proud of your people, be proud of who you are.” 

My family and I had a really good time at the Ellensburg Rodeo and I know because of the warm, inviting, and inclusive welcome I spent more money than I planned.  It felt good to support an event that preached community and I was happy to play my part as an attendee.