KINGMAN - The 25th Annual Andy Devine Days Rodeo has been bucked out of its original venue at the Mohave County Fairgrounds this year, leaving organizers scrambling for a temporary replacement arena before the booking deadline.
Traditionally, Kingman's rodeo has been held during the last week of September, falling at the very end of the qualifying period to compete in the national rodeo finals. This placement helps bring a higher caliber of cowboy to Kingman, and it's something Dr. Bob Rose, president of the Kingsmen, wouldn't give up for anything.
"The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association counts on our rodeo being at the end of September," Rose said.
"Sept. 30 is the end of the rodeo year where they can qualify for the national rodeo final, and right at the end of last year's rodeo, we sign people up for next year, so we've got contracts for Sept. 25 and 26 that we can't change."
Since 1985, the Kingsmen have been responsible for the fundraising and equipment purchases necessary to put on the rodeo year after year. But shortly after last year's rodeo, Rose learned that the Mohave County Fair Association had other plans for his coveted dates.
The association sent Rose a letter informing him that this year's fair would be shifted to Sept. 16 through 19, and with the fair setting aside two weeks afterward for cleanup, that makes Oct. 2 and 3 the next available booking for the rodeo. No explanation was given for the change in dates, and calls to fair association manager Errol Pherigo went unreturned as of press time. All the same, Rose said, the new dates were simply unacceptable.
"The weekend the fairground wants us to have the rodeo is the same weekend as the Turquiose Circuit Finals in Las Cruces," he said. "It's all the top cowboys from Arizona and New Mexico competing in the finals for that region."
In other words, having the rodeo on Oct. 2 and 3 would draw next to no actual competitors, and would ultimately be a waste of time and resources. But with the Fair Association set on its dates, Rose said the only other option has been to start looking for a new place to set up shop.
"We started looking at new potential temporary sites for the rodeo," he said. "We're considering two locations, one of them we're a lot further along on. Our biggest challenge is to get a site nailed down in the next two months so we can submit our application to PRCA to host the rodeo."
Rose didn't want to divulge the specific locations until after negotiations are completed, though he did say a new site should be finalized by June. He added that the biggest obstacle to setting up at a new location will be the added financial burden - the rodeo already cost $60,000 a year to put on, and with a new location comes new cost considerations.
"We're going to need to bring in generators for power, bleachers, a temporary rodeo arena, water, bathrooms, just about everything you take for granted at the fairgrounds we have to bring in and make sure we have available," he said. "It will be more expensive, that's why sponsorship is going to be vital this year. We're really making a push to keep our sponsors involved and to bring in new sponsors."
Rose estimated that bleachers and fencing alone will run an extra $15,000 to $20,000, and while he's counting on increased support from existing sponsors, he's also setting up lower sponsorship levels so that nearly anyone can help support the rodeo.
While the displaced rodeo will incur more costs, Rose noted that not everything about the move is bad. While the fairgrounds had been a convenient place for years, he said there were some key disadvantages to the venue.
"We had some physical limitations with the arena at the fairgrounds because the horseracing track is between the arena and the grandstands," he said. "The way we're going to set it up this year, the grandstands will be right up against the rodeo fence. They'll be able to see the beads of sweat on these cowboys' foreheads."
Rose said the new rodeo venue will be safer as well, for both the animals and the contestants. He noted that, at nearly a half-century old, the fairgrounds arena has some serious maintenance concerns, particularly with its gates.
"The chute gates and timed event gates are literally falling apart," Rose said. "We're running out of metal to weld back together over there."
Despite the challenges ahead, Rose is certain the rodeo will go on as planned this year. Over the next several years, he said the Kingsmen hope to secure their own parcel of land where they can build a new, permanent equestrian facility. It won't be easy, Rose admitted, especially with the non-profit's limited funds. But like any good cowboy, the Kingsmen are going to hang on as long as they can.
"There's going to be nothing but good coming out of this," Rose said.
For more information about the Andy Devine Days Rodeo or to inquire about becoming a sponsor, call Rose at (928) 727-0808.