Note from Josh: This post is updated as of June 1, 2020, to reflect the cancellation of the 2020 season for one of our community’s finest summer traditions, the Rockin’ B Ranch. An edited version of the original subject of this post — a feature on Rockin’ B’s Miss Shirley — is still included at the bottom of this post.
But first, below is a letter from Rockin’ B owners Scott and Pamela Brownlee sharing the news of the season’s cancellation:
June 1, 2020
Hi, Rockin’ B Fans —
We are deeply thankful for our staff’s thoughtful and intelligent responses to our request for input re the 2020 Rockin’ B season in light of the ongoing corona-virus pandemic. They all broadened our thought processes and helped us keep a perspective on as many of the considerations as possible.
We have pendulized from, “Of course we should simply close for the season,” to, “Let’s wait and see,” to (Scott scheming), “I bet we can think of ways to make it work (with enough buckets and pulleys).” And indeed, with their suggestions, there are many ways we thought of to maybe make it work.
But ‘maybe’ may-be a huge spectre of a word right now. In trying to take into consideration all the business aspects, all the show aspects, all the physical plant logistics aspects, all the staffing aspects, all the legal aspects, all the good citizenship aspects, we were always aware of the ‘maybe’ aspects.
In every category, we felt our emphasis should never be on the ‘chances of’ but on the ‘consequences of’. Our prime concern must always be for the safety of our patrons, musicians, cast, and staff. With all the contingency scenarios we could project, there was nothing that could possibly guarantee 100% certainty of safety.
With that lack of assurance we cannot find it in our hearts to do anything but suspend the 2020 shows.
We know many of you have been waiting for news so you can be making your summer plans, and we’re deeply sorry that it has taken so long to make a decision. With directives changing daily, any hopes we had of a partial season kept being put back later and later. The final straw was the Spokane Health Department officer saying that moving to Phase 3 by mid-June would be ‘premature’. That makes Phase 4, where we fall, even later in July or August.
At our driveway entrance this year, a Dusty Bicuspid cut-out is Vanna-White-ing toward our larger sign with a picture of the Riders of the Rockin’ B and the show dates for the 2020 season. Underneath, we put an add-on banner saying, “God willin’ and the creek don’t rise.” We will keep the big sign and paste a cross-out banner over the 2020 dates saying, “See you in 2021.”
We’ll leave “God willin’ and the creek don’t rise.”
We hope and pray you and yours are safe and well.
With love, appreciation, and gratitude for you all,
Scott and Pamela Brownlee
‘Miss Shirley’ home on ranch
As reservations manager, “Miss Shirley” Darlington has attended nearly every Rockin’ B Ranch cowboy supper show since 2004. After 30 years managing a professional building and recruiting physicians for a hospital in the Midwest, Miss Shirley had the proper skillset for work at the Rockin’ B — she just never realized exercising those skills could be so much fun.
“What can be better than going to work, listening to music all night, having good food and watching people go through the line raving about the place?” Miss Shirley said. “It’s my happy place.”
She says all credit for that goes to Scott and Pamela Brownlee, the founders and musicians who opened the Rockin’ B in 1994 on their property “100 yards south of I-90 exit 299” at the state line.
Between Scott’s bass playing, creativity and humorous acting and Miss Pammie “with her singing and yodeling — I mean, she has brought me to tears — I never, ever, ever get tired of listening to them,” Miss Shirley said. “It’s an easy thing to sell when you love it so much.”
The rest of the Riders of the Rockin’ B add their musical gifts to the evening, while the “go back till it’s gone” BBQ supper is made fresh each night. Even the barbecue sauce and marinade are homemade, Miss Shirley said, and a Cantina is available for the grown-up folks.
Then there’s the humor, which starts outside the barn prior to dinner with a rubber chicken-flying, outhouse-exploding shootout featuring the Marshal and his bumbling deputy, Dusty Bicuspid. Later, during the stage show, Dusty shares the story of “Rindercella,” which has become such a hit that returning adults will complain if it isn’t included in the set.
“He is probably the greatest ad libber in the world,” she said of Dusty, who looks suspiciously like Scott with teeth missing. “Nothing ever floors him. He has a comment back for everything, and his (exchanges) with the kids are absolutely priceless.”
Between Dusty’s appearances and the toe-tappin’ music, the cowboy supper shows are known to keep family members of all ages entertained all the live-long evening.
These days, Miss Shirley’s favorite place to watch the show is from the back so she can watch the joy on the faces of the people she met on the phone or in the ticket line. She said she’s seen many a bad day or bad mood reversed by the Rockin’ B.
“It’s like when you go on vacation and you forget that you’re broke and you have problems,” Miss Shirley said. “You walk into the barn, and it’s like those problems just fly out.”
NOTE: A version of this article first appeared in the 2020 Liberty Lake Yearbook.
JUNE 1, 2020 UPDATE:
The ad below lists dates for the 2020 season, but these shows have been cancelled.