Rodeo and fair cancellations hurt rural communities

With no rodeos scheduled through the summer months due to COVID-19, many involved in the rodeo circuit are concerned as to how they can qualify for the Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR).

To answer this question, the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA), has decided to postpone until 2021.

Jeff Robson, with the CPRA, says it was an extremely difficult decision to make, but there really wasn’t any logical way the CFR could go forward in 2020.

“You don’t want to cancel our premier event without a lot of thought. So our board has been very careful about how we think about this. We worked very closely with Westerner Park and the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce on this decision,” Robson explains. “It’s a horrible day from that standpoint, but to look at each other honestly and say we could host an event and do it the right way wasn’t possible.”

Although there may be a chance for some smaller rodeos to take place in the fall, Robson isn’t overly confident it will be economically feasible for the small towns to host. Unfortunately, this also means a huge hit to these communities that depend on the cash flow that these fairs and rodeos bring into them.

“It’s an economic impact to each of those places. I think now, more than ever, we should be selling that feature. As we look at some of these small towns, and whether it’s the rodeo itself, or maybe the cabaret after the rodeo or whatever else they may do during those celebration times,” Robson notes. “That whole economic impact is going to be missed right now, and I think it’s a great reminder to our communities to say hey, we do bring a lot of people in, and it’s reassurance that our sport is doing quite well, and we’ve managed to make it through quite a few of the hurdles.”

As we’ve seen smaller events continue to be cancelled across the country, with a real threat for some of them not to go forward in the future, it begs the question: is the circuit strong enough to sustain this hit?

“It’s very real that there could be a long-lasting effect on some of these communities. However, some of these communities have been doing this for 75 or 100 years. It’s part of the fabric of who they are and what their celebrations are every year. Certainly the people we are talking to, if they could’ve, they would’ve. It’s not a matter of if they financially can’t, they just simply can’t,” he explains. “I think that people are reading a bit too much of the negativity around the world that this is the end. This isn’t the end.”

Robson says the main problem for the 2020 season was the inability to have spectators at events; however, because of the spectators, he is confident they will be a driving force in keeping the sport alive in the future throughout the rodeo circuit.

“This is a situation where we can’t have spectators, we can’t have fans. Fans make our sport. We don’t have global TV, and the ability to host spectator-less events. Spectators make our events. And I think that’s a great reassurance for our sport, that that’s how we prosper, so I think that keeps things in perspective in terms of how our sport will survive.”

Check out the full conversation between Jeff Robson and RealAgriculture’s Shaun Haney:

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