Fallen St. Paul firefighter honored at annual 4th of July Rodeo
ST. PAUL, Ore. (KPTV) - The annual St. Paul Rodeo kicked off Thursday with a somber moment to remember fallen firefighter Austin Smith and other first responders.
The rodeo, which falls on every 4th of July, was packed with people excited to attend a long-standing tradition. But it was during the opening ceremony, that the crowd became quiet as an empty saddle, draped by an American flag entered the stadium. A symbol of Austin’s absence. His father sat on a horse nearby, carrying the white flag of the rodeo. Bagpipes played ‘amazing grace’ as some in the audience wiped tears.
“That’s what makes us a small town and makes it a community,” Brian Cordell, a rodeo attendee said. “We will always continue to honor Austin, in our thoughts, in our dreams, and in our memories.”
Austin passed away from injuries he sustained while battling a barn fire in February of this year. His brother, Zach Smith, said the community is still mourning his death months later.
“It’s been a very painful thing for a lot of people,” Zach said. “The community has reflected and shown huge support. Everybody in the surrounding areas and everybody from around the country has shown their support as well.”
A sign of Austin’s impact on the St. Paul community can be seen in the opening of a new taproom in the heart of town. Harvester Taproom was a project started by Austin and Zach finished. He said the doors opened about a month ago, hitting the end of the timeline Austin set.
“It was a great feeling to have his dreams come true,” Zach said.
Thursday night’s rodeo was not only to honor Austin but to honor all first responders. Sue Coleman is the chair of the St. Paul Rodeo Charitable Fundraiser. She said this year they’re raising money for the St. Paul Fire District.
“Austin was a beloved member of our St. Paul rodeo family and our community,” Sue said. “He was a tremendous supporter of our rodeo and we couldn’t think of a better way to honor him than to honor all first responders. We know that’s what he would have truly wanted.”
So far, more than $70,000 have been raised for new tools that will help firefighters save more lives. Sue said all the new equipment will have Austin’s name engraved on it.
“We’re a volunteer fire department here in St. Paul,” Sue said. “It really hurt us hard here. But this fundraiser has truly been a way for all of us to get behind a project that we know is going to help them, to help others that are potentially in a life-threatening accident.”
If you would like to donate to the fundraiser, you have until July 5th and you can click here.
The St. Paul rodeo goes until July 4th and tickets are $18 to $28.
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