Grangeville’s Brad Arnzen has an interesting take on retirement.

After more than three and a half decades with Avista Utilities, Arnzen retired. But only “sort of.” He continues to help run a hunting and guiding outfit along with other endeavors that keep him busy nearly year-round.

Arnzen also stepped away last year after three-plus decades as a volunteer with the annual Grangeville Border Days community celebration and rodeo.

He jumped back into the mix this year to help organizers find a way to put on this weekend’s events as the nation and Idaho County deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Craig Clohessy: The 109th Grangeville Border Days started Thursday and runs through Saturday. Talk a little bit about your involvement?

Brad Arnzen: I’ve been with Grangeville Border Days since 1987. It’s been over 32 years now. I actually stepped away last year. ... That worked out fine because we have a really good group of organizers, so it was a good time for me to step away. But this year with the coronavirus and everything, they wanted a little bit of consultation. So I came back just to help them this year in a pretty limited role.

My role in this has mostly been the promotion and organization of the rodeo itself. I haven’t had a lot to do with the town organizations, the uptown things and the things that involve the town. But mostly my role has been the rodeo and keeping it going as it has been and try to grow it.

CC: What kind of challenges has the COVID-19 pandemic caused?

BA: Actually a lot. There was a lot of talk this spring when this virus came out — “We’re probably not going to be able to have the rodeo.” We hashed this over a lot and tried to come up with a reasonable way that we could do it. Being that Idaho is in pretty good shape, coronavirus wise, it’s gotten a little worse here recently, but they’ve been in a pretty good state obviously in Stage 4.

So we thought, “Well, people are by now pretty itchy to go out and do something.” ... They have a little anxiety, they’ve been penned up for quite a while, so we decided that we’ll get every tool available to us and give it to the people to give them an opportunity to protect themselves. After that, social distancing and things, those are all personal. They have to do that on their own. But if I can give them all their tools — hand cleaners, washers, barriers, masks, you know, all the things that it takes to protect yourself, if we can give them that, we think we can ... feel really good about having this rodeo.

CC: At the rodeo, are you limiting the number of folks that can be there in attendance?

BA: We don’t know how many there’s going to be. I think our attendance will probably be down because of this. We just don’t know that. But we’re going to cordon off some bleachers so it keeps people a little farther apart. And we have a lot of room down there. So if you want to social distance, you’ll be able to. You’ll have that opportunity to get away from people.

CC: It is a pretty large event. The community activities and the rodeo each draw thousands every day. What do you and the committee see as the biggest challenge you face each year in making Border Days happen?

BA: Trying to have something for everybody. And trying to accommodate as many people as we can, get as many people involved as we can so they keep coming. And also so people from out of town will continue to come for class reunions and family get-togethers and things. That’s the biggest thing, is trying to keep up. And at the same time it has to be profitable or else we can’t do it. We have to make some decisions so we can keep it financially sound.

CC: As you put it in your bio information, you’re retired, sort of, after 36 and a half years as a lineman/foreman for Avista Utilities. Tell me a little bit about the side businesses you’re involved with.

BA: I’ve been a horsebacker, mulebacker pretty much my whole life in the wilderness. And, oh, roughly eight or 10 years ago, I bought into as a partner in a hunting and guiding outfit in Hells Canyon. It’s not a big outfit. It’s enough for me and my partner. It’s more of a hobby, it’s really not a job. It’s the hardest I’ve physically worked all year but it’s the most fun I’ve had all year because I enjoy it so much. That keeps me busy from October through the end of the year.

After that, I work for a fishing guide on the Snake River in Hells Canyon on steelhead trips until about the end of February.

Then in the spring I have a little bit of downtime, March, April and May. I’m not really good at sitting around, I just can’t do that. So retired probably isn’t a real good word for me. Re-purposed probably would be a better word.

I bought a big skid steer, track-mounted skid steer, with a brush mulcher on the front of it. I figured I’d just do a job around here for the farmers killing rose bushes and things. I can do it as much as I want. There’s a pretty big demand for it. So that fills out pretty much the rest of my year.

The rest of the time I spend with my wife. She’s quit working also. She was a registered nurse for quite a lot of years, so we spend quite a lot of time together now enjoying our children and grandchildren, and we’re wanting to travel a little bit as we get older.

CC: You and Charleen have been married for 41 years.

BA: Yeah, almost 42. It’s a long time. I didn’t think I’d live to 42 years old. And I can say that I’ve married very well. She’s a wonderful woman.

Clohessy is managing editor of the Lewiston Tribune. He may be contacted at or (208) 848-2251.

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