For several years, a debate has raged over the value of rodeo to the Rim country.
On one side are those who consider the event an outdated inconvenience and a financial drain on the town. On the other are those who believe the rodeo is little short of an economic miracle and a key component of the tourist business that means so much to the area.
With the completion of the town-sanctioned August Rodeo Survey conducted by the Arizona Hospitality Research & Resource Center (AHRRC) at Northern Arizona University, some concrete answers are finally forthcoming. And as often is the case, the truth falls somewhere between the two extremes.
Of the 8,000 in attendance at the four rodeo performances, almost five percent or 384 participated, a high rate of return according to AHRRC. Those who did were asked a total of 13 questions, most relating to how much money they spent while they were here, and where they spent it.
What we now know is that the average party of 3.2 persons spends over $800 in the Rim country during rodeo weekend on lodging, admissions, groceries, entertainment, shopping, gas and casino gaming. That adds up to a total of $825,000 when you factor in the recirculation of some of that money within the community.
The amount is less than some figured and more than others predicted, but hopefully we can all now agree that August Doin's provides a significant economic boost to the area. As Town Manager Rich Underkofler put it, the survey is "about as scientific an approach as possible."
But in the notes that preface the 40-some page summary document, the AHRRC distinguishes between quantitative and qualitative impacts. "Quantitative impacts focus on monetary issues...," according to the document, while "qualitative impacts are those that contribute to the community's quality of life, historical continuity and destination image."
Qualitative measures are subjective, according to the experts at AHRRC, a matter of opinion. How do you measure, for example, "the comparative value of a football game versus an auto race or music concert?" But one of the 13 questions in the survey attempted to quantify the qualitative: "Please list your agreement or disagreement with the following statement: 'I think the rodeo is an important component of the heritage of Payson.'" Over 90 percent of the respondents, approximately half locals and half out-of-towners, agreed or strongly agreed.
We submit that the real value of the survey lies in that response. We submit that what August Doin's means to this community goes well beyond the dollars it puts in the coffers of retail establishments.
As Vertielee Floyd, Fiddler's Contest director, put it when asked why she stays involved in that event: "It's just such an important part of who we are."
At last we can say, "The people have spoken."