SPRINGDALE, Ark. — The 76th annual Rodeo of the Ozarks has officially been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At the end of the day we had to make a decision based on multiple factors and we researched every possibility and ultimately are not able to have this rodeo,” said Sach Oliver, Rodeo of the Ozarks board member.
This is the first time it's been canceled since 1944. The gates and chutes at Parsons Stadium will remain closed this year.
The Rodeo of the Ozarks board met Monday (June 22) to make the official call regarding whether or not to move forward with the event.
Founder of NWA Brand Kelsey Smith sent the following statement to 5NEWS:
"The Rodeo of the Ozarks board put forth every effort and considered multiple options regarding potential ways to host a rodeo. As a large event in Arkansas, we are required to submit a plan to the state and receive approval in order to host an event. The board submitted an event plan to the Arkansas Department of Health which was not approved."
Organizers say they will be refunding buckle club tickets and coordinating with sponsors.
Organizers also say the Arkansas Department of Health did not approve their safety plan.
At full capacity, the stadium can seat about 8,800 people. The plan that was submitted to the health department included social distancing and limited the number of attendees to about 2,500.
“The reasoning from the department of health was that there would be potentially too many people in the same area too close together," Oliver said.
The Rodeo of the Ozarks Rounders has served as ambassadors since 1995. For the group of skilled riders, the cancelation is disappointing.
“We have to look at it from their standpoint and we want to keep the crowd safe and we want to keep our fans and our audience safe and so we know they made the tight the decision and we’ll be back and ready for next year," said Katlyn Collins, Rodeo of the Ozarks Rounders Captain.
Collins says the Rounders will continue to do their job in the coming months.
“I think we can still go out and support the rodeo and we can promote it and hopefully we’ll be like, 'hey we missed it last year but come this year,' and this will roll on to next year and we can make it a whole lot bigger," Collins said.
The Rounders are hoping to perform at upcoming rodeos in Siloam Springs and Sallisaw.
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