Just when you thought the rodeo had been roped and branded by the Rodeo Preservation Alliance, the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce up and sold the beast to the Payson Pro Rodeo Committee Friday.
Last year marked the first time in decades the chamber was not involved with the August Doin’s Rodeo. Instead, it was leased by the chamber to a new group of cowboys, the Alliance, with Chuck Jackman at the helm.
With the pending sale, the Pro Rodeo Committee has permanent ownership of the World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo. The Pro Rodeo Committee will now produce both the May and August rodeos. The chamber has wiped its hands clean of the event, although it will continue to run the rodeo parade
Chamber manager John Stanton said the rodeo and its name were leased to the Alliance for 2009 in hopes of making the 125th anniversary of the rodeo the best possible event. After the 125th rodeo in August concluded, Stanton said it was important the chamber board weigh its option with selling the rodeo quickly so sponsors could be rounded up for 2010’s rodeo.
The chamber began talks with the Alliance, the Pro Rodeo Committee and another outside bidder.
“The major concern of the chamber was the continuation of the rodeo in Payson and finding people with the passion, ability and financial strength to carry forward this significant event,” Stanton said.
After meeting with the Alliance and the Pro Rodeo Committee, Stanton said the chamber board arduously discussed the decision, ultimately deciding to sell the event to the Pro Rodeo Committee last week. Stanton would not say how much the Pro Rodeo Committee paid for the rodeo’s right.
The board picked someone, “best capable of continuing the event for another 125 years,” Stanton said.
Last year, the rodeo brought in $19,000, the majority of these funds came from the Ring of Honor banquet sponsored by the Mazatzal Casino, and attracted roughly 16,000 spectators and riders to the Rim Country area.
Although the event did not bring in a huge sum, it was better than 2007 when the chamber lost $10,000 and only 7,000 people attended.
It was after the chamber lost money, that it was decided to sell the rodeo off, Stanton said. It was also too laborious for the chamber’s small staff to plan. Since 1992, the chamber had owned the rodeo with the Pro Rodeo Committee running the stock, chutes and parking lots.
In 2008, the Pro Rodeo Committee, a 503c nonprofit, was paid about $13,000 to help with the rodeo, most of which it donated to local charities.
The 2009 rodeo was a huge success and Stanton said he was “very proud” of the Alliance’s work, which included painting the arena and attracting sponsors and riders.
For the 2010 rodeo, Stanton said it was important to keep the momentum moving in the right direction.
The Pro Rodeo Committee and its 120 members offered its services and expertise and the chamber board felt “they can do the best job,” Stanton said. The Pro Rodeo Committee also promised to keep the event in Payson.
Jackman said the Alliance was in negotiations to run the event and had first right of refusal.
However, negotiations were stalled because the chamber would not say how much the Pro Rodeo Committee offered.
“We wanted to know what we were bidding up against,” Jackman said.
After Friday’s announcement, Jackman said he was disappointed with the outcome and “is done with this rodeo.”
“We were asked to put this together (the Alliance) to save the rodeo, which we did,” he said. “We saved their tail this year.”
Jackman said he hopes the rodeo continues and nonprofits keep benefiting from it.
Pro Rodeo Committee Chairman Bill Armstrong said everyone is welcome to participate in the rodeo and join the committee.