As you may recall, Jane Russell came to Idaho to relax after making her first movie, Outlaw. It was a Howard Hughes film about Billy the Kid that came out in 1943. Russell spent some time in Island Park where one of the locals pulled together a rodeo at her request.
Well, here’s the story from that “local’s” perspective.
Vearl Crystal was a young man in 1941 who had a job putting up hay for Chet Ellicott, the owner of a nearby dude ranch. “One day,” wrote Vearl, “Chet Ellicott came out to the field where we were putting up hay and told me he had a guest at the ranch who wanted a rodeo for publicity purposes. I told him I could do it, but I didn’t have any chutes to put the calves and steers and cows for wild cow milking into. He said I could have the whole haying crew for 24 hours to build whatever we needed.
“The guest turned out to be Jane Russell, the movie star,” Crystal went on. “Chet introduced me to Jane Russell and her co-star, Jack Buetel, as a rodeo cowboy. We put on a small but realistic rodeo with lots of pictures. I still have a copy of the old click magazine with all the pictures they used for publicity.”
Local officials were impressed with the publicity the little rodeo got, so they asked Crystal to put on an Island Park rodeo. The war put that on hold until 1946. That first rodeo was called the Island Park Wild Horse Stampede. It continued until at about 2008. The Crystal brothers, Vearl and DeMont produced that rodeo for years, as well as many others as the Crystal Brothers Rodeo Company.
Vearl Crystal passed away in 2011.