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Thu, July 09

‘World’s Oldest Rodeo’ to limit seating capacity to 25%
COVID-19 forces changes for 133rd annual rodeo June 29 through July 5

The American flag is presented during the second performance of the Prescott Frontier Days Rodeo on July 2, 2019.  (Les Stukenberg/Courier, file)

The American flag is presented during the second performance of the Prescott Frontier Days Rodeo on July 2, 2019. (Les Stukenberg/Courier, file)

The 2020 Prescott Frontier Days Rodeo will go on as planned from Monday, June 29, through Sunday, July 5, but the look and feel from the stands will be much different.

With the COVID-19 threat still hanging over Arizona, rodeo general manager J.C. Trujillo said he is limiting the seating capacity to 25% at the Prescott Rodeo Grounds, 840 Rodeo Drive. Gov. Doug Ducey reached the agreement with the City of Prescott.

“That was the important thing for me,” added Trujillo regarding being able to put on a rodeo in 2020. “For 132 years we’ve continuously kept this rodeo going – the ‘World’s Oldest Rodeo.’ We couldn’t let anything change that, even if we had no audience. But we’re lucky.”

As a result, social-distancing guidelines will be required at each of the 133rd annual rodeo’s eight performances, which include 7:30 p.m. June 29 and 30; 7:30 p.m. July 1, 2 and 3; 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. July 4; and 1:30 p.m. July 5. The July 3 and 4 performances are sold out, but tickets remain for most of the other performances, Trujillo said.

Trujillo added that the grandstand will be divided into separate reserved sections so that the number of spectators in each section can be limited. This will allow fans to sit comfortably, albeit socially-distanced, at a complex that under normal circumstances seats upwards of 5,000 people.

In addition, the rodeo grounds’ skybox, which seats about 400 people on the east side, will be closed.

“That way we can spread out the vendors more, and have more social distancing,” Trujillo said.

BEHIND THE SCENES

During each performance, rodeo staffers have been asked to wear face coverings, although spectators may make their own decisions, Trujillo said. Hand sanitizers and signage will line the grounds. After each performance, the grandstand will be sanitized.

For fans who can’t watch the rodeo in-person, each performance will be televised on The Cowboy Channel and The Cowboy Channel Plus. Trujillo said you can buy a viewing package for $9.99 (per month) for watching on your TV or streaming device.

For more information, call 402-991-6290 or visit: thecowboychannel.com or cowboychannelplus.com.

Prescott Frontier Days Rodeo officials say that they have been working with Yavapai County Community Health Services, the City of Prescott, and Ducey’s office to set the new safety guidelines for the rodeo.

Ducey’s office was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.

Trujillo said the rodeo’s agreement for 25% capacity was primarily made with Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli. Mengarelli credited the Frontier Days Rodeo committee and its president, Chris Graff, for their efforts.

“They worked very closely with the Yavapai County health department and the PRCA [Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association] to find out what they needed to do to conduct a rodeo safely,” Mengarelli said. “… I have been communicating with the governor’s office.”

SHOW MUST GO ON

The traditional events in each of the performances at the “World’s Oldest Rodeo,” established in 1888, remain in 2020. Those events include professional steer wrestling, bareback riding, tie-down roping, saddle bronc riding, team roping, women’s barrel racing, and bull riding.

Scheduled specialty acts include the Riata Ranch Cowboy Girls, Broken Spoke Clydesdales, and barrelman Mark Swingler. Quirt Hunt and Luke Kraut are the bullfighters. Longtime announcer and ProRodeo Hall of Famer Randy Corley and stock contractor Kirsten Vold of the Vold Rodeo Company also return.

Due to the coronavirus, several PRCA rodeos have either been postponed or canceled this year. As a result, Prescott Frontier Days reached its capacity for contestants. Only the cowpunchers bronc riding was canceled.

“The rodeo has a longstanding heritage of 133 years,” said Mengarelli, adding that the rodeo represents American freedom. “It’s very important to Prescott and Yavapai County.”

Doug Cook is a reporter for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter at @dougout_dc. Email him at dcook@prescottaz.com or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2039.

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