The sun has set on a rough day in rodeo.
While still feeling euphoric over the reopening of ProRodeo in the Arizona desert, the sport was dealt a difficult uppercut when seven Wyoming events announced their cancellations for the 2020 season Wednesday. That means no Cheyenne Frontier Days, “The Daddy of ’em All,” nor events in Cody, Sheridan, Casper, Thermopolis, Laramie and Rock Springs.
It’s a devastating blow to the game that people play for the lifestyle, the passion and the comradery. This is a jab to the people who make their livings in the sport, but it’s also a slap to those communities that thrive when the rodeo comes to town.
These decisions are not made in haste, and there has been great debate in each committee meeting as they stare at the prospects of producing an event that will face limitations. How can their stands be filled while social distancing is still in effect? How can the lack of ticket-buyers do anything but negatively affect the bottom line?
Many of these community events struggle to be financially stable year after year, and the people making these decisions must take that into consideration. They also weigh what this means for the community. How can they approach potential sponsors whose doors have been shuttered for weeks?
Maybe reigning six-time world champion bull rider Sage Kimzey expressed it best in a social media post from Wednesday afternoon: “Rodeos are community events; we have been a part of community events for over 100 years. If the community is struggling, how do we expect them to donate $250 to an ad in a program when they haven’t worked in over 50 days? How do we expect these people who are worried about feeding their families, losing their businesses and surviving, to put on a rodeo when their community is suffering?”
There are thousands of us who make our livings in this game, and, yes, this affects how we feed our families and how we pay our mortgages and how we make sure our bills are covered. But we are a resilient bunch, and I’m proud of that.
“Without rodeos, none of us have jobs, and I think we need to open our eyes and see that communities and volunteers work really hard to make this happen and if they can’t make it happen, we should at least praise them for trying,” Kimzey wrote. “This is out of their control; it’s coming from state government and probably lack of funds. Compassion goes a long way, and right now as an industry, we need to step up and be thankful for those that can still take place.”
As of now, more than 150 PRCA events have been canceled. That equals millions of dollars in payout that will not be dispensed and hundreds of thousands of dollars not paid to contract personnel. But more than any of that, there are many more millions of dollars in economic impact that communities won’t see.
The reality, though, is we’re less than three months into this social distancing. Many things, both positively and negatively, can happen in the nest few months. I choose to look at the positive.
Here’s hoping for great things to come in the weeks and months ahead.