It’s official — the Enumclaw Pro Rodeo, reportedly the last holdout in the Pacific Northwest, is cancelled.
Chris Johnson, president of the Enumclaw Pro Rodeo Association, said the annual event was cancelled Aug. 1 by a 10-1 vote.
“The occurred after a lot of debate and a lot of discussion,” Johnson said. “To me, it’s like losing an old friend.”
One of the big reasons the rodeo was cancelled was money. According to Johnson, the rodeo costs around $85,000 to put on every year.
Roughly $40,000 of that cost is made up through community sponsorships, but the rest has to be made up by ticket sales, and with social distancing rules in place, the rodeo association estimated only being able to sell between 700 or 800 tickets this year, rather than the normal 2,000.
“It didn’t pencil out for us,” Johnson continued. “There’s a potential here, this year, for wiping out our reserves, what we’ve saved up over the last eight years. That’s a hell of a risk.”
Johnson also pointed out the rodeo association only sees between $10,000 to $12,000 in profit every year, and that all the board members and staff that work “hundreds” of hours putting the event on are all volunteers.
There was also a liability factor — Gov. Jay Inslee enacted new rules against holding any live entertainment, indoors or out, on July 20.
“The rodeo is outdoor entertainment,” Johnson said. “We were all in up until the point the government stipulated no outdoor entertainment… that carried a lot of weight with our decision.”
But even if the rodeo could survive a financial hit and withstand the liability factor, there would likely not be enough competitors to fill three days of events.
“Normally, this time of year, the cowboys are all in the Pacific Northwest, because you’ve got a couple of [other rodeos] — Kennewick, Ellensburg, Puyallup, Enumclaw, Bremerton, they’re all up here,” Johnson said. “All of those rodeos have been cancelled. These cowboys are at home running their ranches. They’re not in the area.”
The cancelled event is a tremendous blow to the Enumclaw Expo Center’s bottom line.
“This adds to my net loss of over $500,000 from March to September,” director Rene Popke said in an email. “It’s a great impact on our venue as well as our community.”
If the pandemic ends by next August, Johnson promises the 2021 rodeo will be “one hell of a party.”