Rodeo Hearing Slated, As Talks Continue

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A court hearing to decide the fate of the World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo will start May 5, as all parties continue to work toward a solution.

Superior Court Judge Peter Cahill has scheduled a May 5 and 6 hearing to settle a dispute between the Payson Pro-Rodeo Committee and the Rodeo Preservation Alliance about which group has the right to stage the August Doin’s Rodeo in Payson.

Both sides say they continue work on trying to come up with a compromise settlement, as Cahill had instructed in the first, brief hearing more than a week ago on the dispute.

Attorneys for both sides “are working together,” said Neal Bookspan, who represents the Rodeo Preservation Alliance. “Right now, we’re proceeding on all the directions from the court. As far as whatever information you have about there currently being a settlement — there is no settlement in process. We are all proceeding as directed by the judge.”

Rumors flurried through town last week of a possible settlement, but no one from either side would confirm the rumors on the record.

The legal wrangle pits two groups of long-time rodeo backers against one another, in the wake of the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce’s decision last summer to sell the rights to the nation’s oldest continuous rodeo and a Rim Country tourism mainstay to the Pro-Rodeo Committee.

The Alliance, which staged the rodeo last summer under the terms of a contract with the Chamber, filed a lawsuit alleging that the Chamber had refused to honor a contract giving the Alliance “first right of refusal” to buy the rodeo, before selling it to the Pro-Rodeo Committee.

Officials from the Chamber have said that they offered Alliance rodeo boss Chuck Jackman the first opportunity to buy the rights, but that Jackman declined to make a cash offer.

The Pro-Rodeo Committee then offered $20,000 for rights to stage the rodeo, which has an annual budget of some $170,000.

The potentially messy contract dispute could come down to an argument about whether a later offer from Honeycutt Stock Contractors for $30,000 that was co-signed by Jackman and three members of the Alliance board constituted an offer from the Alliance that qualified under the Alliance’s “first right of refusal” clause in its contract.

The dispute taps into longstanding political and personal relationships.

The Pro-Rodeo Committee had run the rodeo through a contract with the Chamber for about 20 years, when the Chamber board decided to seek major changes in the terms of the contract.

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