The little crossroads community of Woodinville was known to rodeo performers across the nation between 1941 and 1961. Two families, the Moullets and the Sanderlins, operated popular venues on opposite corners at the east end of today’s main arterial, NE 175th Street.
Robert “Follie” Moullet was one of several men who backed the first rodeo in 1943 on the southeast corner site where Bank of America and a surrounding mall stand today. Moullet and his wife Helen lived on the property. Helen’s sister, Rose Wahl, was a world-ranked trick rider, and her husband Buff Brady was a trick roper. Rose Wahl also served as the stock contractor for the annual rodeos, ensuring that animals were available for the various roping and riding events.
The rodeo arena and pens sprawled across the property now occupied by Woodinville Plaza shopping center and the adjacent Woodinville Community Church. Actually, the final rodeo in 1946 was held on grounds beside Paradise Lake, east of Woodinville.
In that era, nationally ranked riders traveled the annual rodeo circuit from Canada to Mexico, seeking championships and fame.
A family descendant, Cherie Moullet, recently described her memories of the Woodinville scene on rodeo day. “A large parade would ride down the hillside toward the arena (on the corner), led by a large group of Yakama Indians from eastern Washington in full regalia,” she said. “They were followed by musicians including Northwest personalities like Buck Ritchie. Then came the rodeo riders in their colorful regalia. It was really something to see!”
Wooden grandstands held the overflow crowds who came from across the Northwest to see the events. Cherie Moullet, who lives in Snohomish County today, still has one of the large posters that advertised the weekend rodeo, this one on Sept. 5-6, 1944, at the height of World War II. The Moullets had moved off the site by that time and were living on the opposite hill above today's Hollywood Tavern. Later they bought the property where Columbia Winery now stands.
In the late 1940s, Moullet and his fellow rodeo promoters moved on to other projects. By 1949, a former King County sheriff's deputy, Ace Sanderlin, and his family bought property on the opposite corner, where Key Bank now stands. Moving into the two-story home on the site, known as the Alice M Ranch, Sanderlin launched a similar enterprise that involved an arena and grandstands that stood on today’s Woodinville Park 'n Ride lot. Known as the Woodinville Rodeo, the events drew riders from across the West and provided employment for local residents until 1961.
At various times, the rodeo grounds were used for Easter Sunrise services (1959), motorcycle races (1958), and Carson and Barnes three-ring circus (1962).
Readers interested in local history are invited to visit the Woodinville Heritage Museum, housed in the DeYoung House at 14121 NE 171st St. which is open the first Sunday of every month, 1-4 pm. The society’s publication called Images of America: Woodinville contains photos of the Sanderlin rodeo. (Thanks to Gloria and Jim Kraft for historical information about the rodeos from early newspaper clippings).