It’s official: No Roundup Rodeo this year

Ryan Peerboom — Enterprise Staff Writer
Friday, May 22, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed another long-running event in Livingston. 

The Livingston Roundup Association voted to cancel the 96th iteration of the Livingston Roundup Rodeo at a meeting Thursday night, according to a notice of cancellation from LRA President Bruce Becker. 

“The Livingston Roundup Rodeo has a proud legacy and tradition of providing the best in western sport and entertainment ... this year’s event would have been its 96th edition,” Becker said in the notice of cancellation. “However, the Livingston Roundup Association at its May 21st, 2020 meeting, after much discussion voted to cancel this year’s rodeo which was to be held on July 2, 3 and 4 with slack on July 1 and July 4.”

The rodeo joins around 100 other Pro Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) and Women’s Pro Rodeo Association-sanctioned events that have been canceled in response to the pandemic. 

The Roundup Rodeo had been running every year since the 1950s, after some cancellations in the 1940s around the time of World War II.

The LRA implemented a COVID-19 mitigation team and spent the last few months discussing how it could successfully operate the rodeo if phase two of Gov. Steve Bullock’s reopening plan was in place. 

“We were looking at everything from safety of volunteers, fans and contestants,” mitigation team member and Montana Rodeo Committee representative Stacy Sunvison said. 

However, the group decided Thursday there were too many hurdles to overcome.

“Within our organization, the consensus was that it was just a lot to do,” another mitigation team member, Elena Klasing, said Friday morning.

Initially, the decision was to be made on June 1, but Becker said the LRA knew the challenges they were facing and didn’t think the extra time would change the group’s decision.

“We didn’t see waiting another week was going to make a difference,” Becker said Friday.

In the end, it was too difficult to ensure the safety of those involved with the rodeo.

“The action taken by the Association to cancel its rodeo was done in the interest of public health and safety to protect attendees as well as competitors,” Becker said in the notice.

Becker also mentioned that organizers wouldn’t have the manpower to enforce the fan guidelines outlined in phase two. 

Klasing said volunteer requirements also played a factor, since some of the people needed for operating the rodeo are in high-risk groups. 

Sunvison said it wasn’t a unanimous decision. Klasing added that a small number of group members still wanted to wait until June 1. 

Klasing and Sunvison both agreed the driving factor behind trying to put on the rodeo was for the community of Livingston and the contestants who rely on rodeos as their main source of income. 

 The LRA is still having discussions about having a big fireworks show on July 4. That decision will be made at a meeting Wednesday, Becker said.  

The entire PRCA and rodeo industry has been heavily affected by the cancellation. Sunvison said that more than 3,000 people have been impacted by the virus and some stock contractors could lose up to $2.5 million.

The LRA says it will hold the rodeo as planned next year. 

“The Livingston Roundup Rodeo will be back in 2021,” Becker said.