The Payson Pro-Rodeo Committee has signed an agreement that gives it ownership of the World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo, according to Rodeo Boss Bill Armstrong.
The agreement, negotiated by a mediator, will dissipate the cloud that has overshadowed planning for this year’s August Rodeo.
“The main thing is the Pro-Rodeo Committee owns the rodeo, so we can get on with it,” said Armstrong.
The agreement settles a standoff between the Committee and the rival Rodeo Preservation Alliance, which staged the rodeo last year.
“The agreement was a win-win for the parties and all Payson and Rim Country residents,” according to a press release issued by the office of Don Stevens, attorney for the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The Alliance had filed a lawsuit claiming the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce violated a provision in its contract with the Alliance that gave it the “first right of refusal” to put on the rodeo this year.
Neither side would reveal details of the settlement, beyond that it will give the 120-member Pro-Rodeo Committee rights to the August Doin’s — held continuously for 126 years.
The three sides have already signed a legally binding agreement, under the terms of the negotiations run by a court-appointed arbitrator.
The furor dates back at least two years, when the Chamber tried to negotiate a new contract with different financial terms with the Pro-Rodeo Committee, which had managed the rodeo for the past 20 years. The Chamber at that point owned the rights to the rodeo, but turned over the day-to-day operations to the Committee Committee.
Key town and chamber officials wanted to both reduce the chamber’s financial risk and make the rodeo more of a family-oriented community event.
When talks between the Chamber and the Committee hit a snag, the Chamber turned to the newly created Alliance — headed by Chuck Jackman, who had years previously worked with the Committee.
The Alliance then put on last year’s rodeo, the 125th in the series.
The Alliance’s contract gave it first right of refusal to put on this year’s rodeo. The Chamber then decided to sell off the rights to the rodeo, to reduce the financial risk and the demands on the Chamber’s time. The rodeo costs more than $160,000 to stage.
However, talks broke down between the Chamber and the Alliance on rights to the rodeo. According to Chamber officials, the Alliance turned down an opportunity to buy the rights to the rodeo. According to the Alliance’s lawsuit, the Chamber did not honor the “first right of refusal” provisions in the contract.
In any case, the Chamber then sold the rodeo to the Committee for $20,000. That sale came despite a competing offer of $30,000 from Honeycutt stock contractors, which was co-signed by Alliance board members.
The Committee then began work on the rodeo. One of the early decisions was to not contract with Honeycutt to run the stock, although Honeycutt had been involved with the Payson rodeo for years.
The Alliance then sought and obtained the sanction of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) as the sponsor of the August Rodeo. The Pro-Rodeo Committee protested — which resulted in a crossfire of lawsuits. The PRCA withdrew its sanction and said it wouldn’t support any rodeo in Payson until the two sides settled the question of ownership.