Rodeo has been a tradition throughout the west for many years. In Cody, Wyoming, that tradition has carried on for over 100 years. Well, almost ‘over’ 100 years.
For the first four days of July, the ‘Rodeo Capital of the World’ holds an annual celebration of a sport that has been passed down from generation to generation. This year would have been the 101st annual celebration. However, State restrictions due to the novel coronavirus pandemic forced board members to cancel the long-standing pro-rodeo and parade.
On Wednesday, Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon held a press conference, with representatives from several major rodeos across the cowboy state, to inform the public of canceled events. Amongst fan favorites like Sheridan WYO Rodeo and Cheyenne Frontier Days, Cody Stampede was forced to reevaluate their summers plans.
The representatives created videos in order to share their decisions with the public. In his video, Cody Stampede Board President Mike Darby said, “Along with our governor and his health advisers, we had to make the decision. We had no choice but to cancel our celebration of our Western lifestyle.”
That celebration can draw up to 5,000 people and has been voted twice as Large Outdoor Rodeo of the Year. They were set to have a purse of $25,000 per event in added money for the 2020 Stampede, giving them the title of the Largest “One Header” Rodeo in the PRCA.
Along with the four-day event, Cody, Wyoming, is known for their Cody Night Rodeo which is a smaller, local rodeo and runs every night from the first of June until the end of August. That event also fell victim to the effects of the pandemic. Despite the shutdown, the board is fighting to keep its legacy moving forward.
Last week the rodeo board sent a variance request to the state officials that would allow them to hold their smaller nightly rodeo, which was later denied by the State Health Officer. In a press release on Friday, the board said they “are submitting another variance request, and we hope the Governor will stand by his word and approve it.”
That word from the Governor was to allow smaller rodeos to take place across Wyoming. In an interview with Northern Ag Network on Friday, Mike Darby said the second variance request highlights the large capacity of grandstands on two sides of the arena, dual concession stands and plans to help contestants maintain proper social distancing.
Darby also pointed out the state health officials have provided “good dialogue” as the board has revised different submissions. Darby said “safety is first and foremost” while still providing a “great experience for our audience.” The board is still in the planning stages of the celebration so he is not sure if it will be a “truncated rodeo or another alternative so our town can look forward to having a celebration for the fourth of July.”
Darby wrapped up by proclaiming his appreciation “to work with such great board members and their integrity to serve.”
Northern Ag Network – 2020
Photo Credit: Corina Linebaugh