Saddle up, Canby, because this summer, a legendary local tradition will ride again. Fair or no Fair, the Canby Rodeo will return Aug. 17 through the 21st, longtime committee member Todd Gary confirmed this week.
Gary said the committee has been working toward this since late last year.
“We sat down in December and January and said, ‘OK. With the matrix we’re given today, could we put on a rodeo and be able to pay the bills?'” he recalled. “We looked at how many people we can fit in that arena, and if we fit in that many people, will we break even? That’s all we were looking at: breaking even.”
The Canby Rodeo is expensive, with hefty expenses including stock, contract acts and performers and purses for the rodeo cowboys and cowgirls.
Gary estimates it costs about $300,000 to put on. That’s a big price tag — especially when you’re not sure how many tickets you’ll be allowed to sell.
“We put on one of the best rodeos in the nation, and we didn’t want to take away from that,” he said.
Gary — also a longtime retired Canby firefighter and EMT who has helped draft the rodeo’s plans for various Covid-19 scenarios over the months — said the board voted in May to pull the trigger.
“At our last meeting in May, we made the decision to move forward,” Gary said. “Really, by that time, everybody said, ‘Let’s rodeo. We want to do a rodeo.'”
Exact capacity and many other details are still being finalized — and much of that will rely on guidance from state and county officials. At 4,800 seats, Canby’s arena is one of the smaller rodeo venues to host a PRCA-sanctioned event.
Canby had one major advantage over other rodeos: Time.
With a traditional setting in mid to late August, Canby has an extra six weeks more than July Fourth rodeos like the Molalla Buckeroo (which was canceled for the second year in a row) and St. Paul (which is still on, though ticket sales have been paused in the hope that restrictions will ease further).
Six weeks could be the difference between Clackamas County being at high, moderate or low risk (15%, 25% or 50% capacity, respectively) or no capacity restrictions whatsoever — if statewide vaccination rates top 70%.
“With the way things are looking, there’s a possibility we could pack the stands,” Gary said Monday. “We could get to that 70%. Man, that would be great to see.”
The decision to cancel the 2020 event hit the rodeo board hard, Gary admitted, on top of the pandemic challenges many faced — including a lack of social interaction.
“We were doing Zoom meetings,” he said. “It’s kind of funny but we actually had a meeting where we were in the field out here, standing on our tailgates, because we just wanted to get together as a rodeo committee. We had this huge circle of pickups, where we were almost yelling across to talk to each other.”
Gary said the board felt it was important to bring the rodeo back for the community they love.
“This rodeo is a tradition in Canby,” he said. “It’s been a tradition for a long time, and there’ve been some really, really great people over the years who have poured so much into this rodeo. It’s almost unbelievable. And that’s really what’s at the heart of this event.”
Though the rodeo committee is planning to do a 2021 event, the go-ahead ultimately lies with the Clackamas County Fair Board — which will also decide the fate of the 2021 fair. According to a statement from the board, officials plan to make a decision regarding both events at their June 10 meeting.
“No one wants to see a 2021 fair and rodeo happen more than the board of directors and staff,” the statement said. “It might look a little different, but our hope is to move forward and get back in the saddle — with safety being our first priority.”
For those who want to help get the Canby Rodeo grounds in top shape for August, the board is currently hosting volunteer work nights on Thursday. For more information, visit canbyrodeo.com.
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