In June 2019, the Cave Creek Rodeo Days (CCRD) board met to start planning the 43rd annual rodeo festivities from March 16 through March 29, 2020. We anticipated a record turnout. Ticket sales were up, parade entries were filling up, and the golf tournament was almost full for the 2020 rodeo event.
Then the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S., with cases starting to spike in Arizona in mid-March. The CCRD board chose to postpone the event and moved the dates to Memorial Day weekend. We hoped the virus would subside by May and the event would be held as it brings much needed revenue dollars to our town before the summer heat sets in.
When Governor Ducey extended his shelter-in-place order through May 15, the board was faced with some very tough decisions. So many people count on events like ours to take care of their families. Wages are earned at our event by contestants, the stock contractor and its personnel, bull fighters, rodeo clowns, to name a few. The financial impact is also felt by our local businesses, rental companies, hotels, motels, restaurants and their staff. With PRCA sanctioned rodeos cancelling across the country, the organization felt it was more important than ever to “Kick Open the Chutes” and give rodeo a restart for the 2020 season.
We were determined to move forward with the event, so we got together with the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association, The Cowboy Channel and the Justin Sports Medicine Team to figure out the new landscape of our event. Together, we developed specific ground rules and sanitation guidelines to allow a safe way to move forward while adhering to the Governor’s mandates and the CDC guidelines.
On Friday, May 22, we kicked open the chutes for the first live broadcast PRCA rodeo performance since the start of the pandemic shutdown. Cave Creek was catapulted into the national spotlight and rodeo history when The Cowboy Channel broadcast all performances to nearly a million viewers. Our live feed competition at the Cave Creek Memorial Arena was the first live sporting event and PRCA sanctioned rodeo televised since the pandemic sports shutdown.
To keep everyone safe, Cave Creek Rodeo Days and the PRCA laid out a series of ground rules for competitors, volunteers and the community. While fans were disappointed that they could not attend, we were overwhelmed by the positive response we received from them and our sponsors.
We were fortunate to have a weekend of decent temperatures for late May and the cooperation of everyone permitted on site. All rodeo contestants and personnel had health screenings, wore masks and practiced physical distancing. Sanitation efforts throughout the rodeo grounds were managed tirelessly.
Our stellar lineup of talent included four-time PRCA World Champion Tuf Cooper and 19-year-old superstar Shad Mayfield who competed in tie-down roping and team roping taking the All-Around Cowboy award from our event. The rodeo also featured bareback riders Clayton Biglow and Richmond Champion and bull riders Boudreaux Campbell and Stetson Wright. Sunday’s event looked like a Wright Family Reunion, with a number of Wright family members competing in saddle bronc and bull riding. In all, our total payout was $78,372.
None of this would have happened without the dedication of our Cave Creek Rodeo Days membership, volunteers, and generous sponsors. We’re also grateful to the PRCA, the Cowboy Channel and the Justin Sports Medicine team for assisting us to provide a safe, much-needed platform for the event.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our Royalty program organizers, led by Allison Stressman. On February 15, Cave Creek Rodeo Days held its Queen Contest at Civana Resort where contestants were judged on their horsemanship, personality, appearance, and understanding of the sport of rodeo. Kiersten Pettus, of Gilbert won the title of 2020-2021 Cave Creek Rodeo Days Queen and Peyton Sourant, of New River, was crowned Teen Queen. Kiersten, Peyton and the Royalty committee were a big help during rodeo weekend.
I’m so proud of our resilient rodeo family, and I’m equally appreciative of our Desert Foothills community. The Cave Creek Rodeo Days organization has donated more than $72,000 in the last two years to support grounds improvements and over a dozen local and state charities.
On behalf of the Cave Creek Rodeo Days board of directors, thank you for sticking with us during a year full of twists, turns and more surprises than we cared for. Here’s hoping for a virus-free 2021 and an even bigger and better rodeo next spring!
Beth Cornell is president of Cave Creek Rodeo Days.