When Portland-based photojournalist Ivan McClellan began documenting Black rodeos in 2015, he never imagined that he would be hosting his own large-scale rodeo. Yet on June 17, 2023, midway through the month-long Juneteenth celebration, McClellan, along with Councilor Vince Jones-Dixon of the City of Gresham, and a team of volunteers will bring a rodeo back to Portland’s Expo Center for the first time since the days of the Multnomah County Fair there. The Eight Seconds Juneteenth Rodeo will host 2,500 people to an event that will immerse its audience in the western lifestyle that includes barrel racing, bull riding, cocktails, cowboys, cowgirls, and music by DJ O.G.ONE.
McClellan created the Eight Seconds project in 2015 to showcase his photos and stories of Black rodeo athletes and culture across the U.S. The project, characterized by iconic photography portraying the American West, quickly gained recognition. Media outlets such as ESPN, Elle Magazine, The Washington Post, I-D Magazine, Black Enterprise, and Modern Huntsman covered McClellan’s work, which was also featured in brand campaigns for Tecovas, Wrangler, and Stetson. The project became a vehicle for promoting and elevating Black cowboys and rodeo athletes.
“This rodeo is the next natural step of a subject that found and captivated me,” said McClellan. “I was always attracted to cowboy culture as a kid and was blown away when I was introduced to Black rodeos as an adult. After going to dozens of rodeos, I decided that I have to bring this experience to my hometown and share it with my friends, neighbors, and my city–especially young people who can't imagine it or fully experience it from pictures.”
Taking place on Saturday, June 17 from 3:00 - 10:00 p.m., the invitational rodeo will gather some of the top competitors with an emphasis on supporting Black western athletes and educating people on the cultural heritage of Black cowboys and cowgirls.
Competitive events will include bull riding, barrel racing, steer wrestling, steer undecorating, bareback riding, and mutton busting. The rodeo will have vendors, soul food, giveaways, and a VIP experience.
For more information, visit 8secondsrodeo.com.
Originally from Kansas City, Ivan McClellan is a photojournalist and designer based in Portland, Oregon. Eight Seconds is the eight-year passion project that has taken McClellan across the country to photograph ranches and rodeos and shed light on Black cowboy culture, elevating their stories in popular media. Learn more at eightsecs.com.