FORT SMITH, Ark. — The 87th Annual Old Fort Days Rodeo has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I can assure you after all the committee's work to get this done and selecting an alternate date, the decision was not an easy one to make," officials with the rodeo wrote on social media.
Officials say all factors were taken into consideration and after looking at it in all ways the decision was made.
The major factor was the inability to look at the future decisions the government would make, officials said.
All involved parties say they want to take it up next year when the pandemic is hopefully over with.
It's unclear at this time if the parade will still take place.
Officials will continue putting rodeo articles on their Facebook page.
The event was originally scheduled to take place on May 25-30 and was rescheduled to June 22-27 before it was canceled.
“There’s no way we can do it at the end of June and then you get into the hot summer...we just decided to call it off for this year and hopefully will be able to do it next year,” said Denny Flynn, Executive Director Kay Rogers Park.
With around 5,000 people coming for each of the six days of events, the rodeo attracts a crowd. This was the main concern for organizers that have to consider possible COVID-19 restrictions.
“We postponed it in June in hopes that we can come back and they can open it up,” Flynn said.
Many people travel from outside of Arkansas to see the event. Scheduling with so much uncertainty made it nearly impossible for those setting the plans.
Sponsorship was also tough this year. There were traditional sponsors like Breeden Chrysler, who puts together the Ram Rodero Series. But with many businesses closed, the spare cash was not on hand.
"They don’t have that cash flow coming in that would help justify them spending that sponsorship dollar,” Dean Pendergrass said.
Pendergrass says he agrees with the Board of Trustees who made the decision to cancel this year's rodeo but will be sad to not have it once that week rolls around.
“We’re sad we weren’t gonna have it this month and then when they moved it to other dates we were excited again and now we’re kind of sad again,” Pendergrass said.
Lynn says he feels bad for the riders who look forward to this event and other rodeos around the country to make a living. He says the committee will go back to the table and reschedule for next year.