7-20-19 rodeo results 1.JPG (copy)

Idaho’s Cooper Cooke hangs on tight during a wild ride at the National High School Finals Rodeo last year in Rock Springs. While the Sweetwater Events Complex threw its hat in the ring to host the transplanted NHSFR in 2020, event organizers decided to go with the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma.

ROCK SPRINGS – The National High School Finals Rodeo will relocate to the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma, in 2020 after losing its spot in Lincoln, Nebraska, due to coronavirus restrictions. The Sweetwater Events Complex and Gillette Cam-plex were unsuccessful in their efforts to land the event.

“We are thankful that the National High School Finals Rodeo has found a home for 2020. We appreciate the positive feedback from the community and wish we had better financial news,” Events Complex Executive Director Larry Lloyd said Friday.

The 2020 NHSFR is now scheduled for July 17-23 at the Lazy E Arena, which rodeo organizers said meets their needs for arenas, camping and stalling.

“We also appreciate that the facility was one of the first to cautiously and safely host events as coronavirus mandates were lifted, so the facility’s staff has the knowledge and protocols in place to meet local, state and federal health mandates to protect our contestants, attendees, volunteers and staff,” a press release said.

The site was also cited for its past experience.

“We appreciate the abundant amount of support from the venues that reached out to the National High School Rodeo Association to host the 2020 event,” said James Higginbotham, NHSRA executive director. “The representatives from each of the venues who reached out had one thing on their minds and that was to put on a safe rodeo for the kids.”

HEALTH CONCERNS

After concluding its most recent run in Sweetwater County in 2019, the NHSFR was set to move on to the community of Lincoln, Nebraska, for July 19-25, 2020, and July 18-24, 2021. However, rodeo organizers said they were forced to start looking elsewhere last week due to restrictions related to the coronavirus.

Rodeo organizers voiced their commitment to continuing the 2020 event after the Lincoln/Lancaster County Health Department decided the event “cannot be allowed to take place in Lincoln or Lancaster County in July.”

The health department’s press release stated, “This decision is based, in part, on the risk of the spread of COVID-19 that would be posed to the citizens of Lincoln and Lancaster County that would result by bringing thousands of people from dozens of states and, potentially, several countries together. In addition, the large number of people expected to attend, the close proximity those individuals would be in, and the length of time individuals would be at the event are some of the factors causing serious concern with the LLCHD. Because this event has the potential to overwhelm the health resources of the community, not allowing the event to take place is necessary to control the spread of COVID-19 in Lincoln and Lancaster County.”

“We are disappointed that we will not be able to host the 2020 National High School Rodeo in Nebraska; however, we also respect the decisions made by the state regarding the event,” Higginbotham said. “The youth are our future, and they deserve the opportunity to showcase their skills in the arena. Therefore, NHSRA leadership is evaluating the possibility of holding the event at a different location, while adhering to social distancing mandates to protect the contestants and exhibitors.”

Representatives from the Events Complex and Cam-Plex reached out to the NHSFR.

“The Sweetwater Events Complex is a driving force that stimulates our economy year-round. Each event plays a key role in fostering tourism and economic development and the National High School Finals Rodeo is a perfect example of this. Our staff has taken the lead recruiting events to our area that directly benefit our local businesses, the city of Rock Springs, city of Green River and Sweetwater County thru sales tax,” Lloyd said prior to the association’s announcement.

The Gillette News Record reported Cam-plex General Manager Jeff Esposito received a call from the NHSFR on May 29 asking if Gillette would host the rodeo.

Gillette has hosted the NHSFR 11 times, most recently in 2016 and 2017, and it is already scheduled to welcome the rodeo back on July 17-23, 2022, and July 16-22, 2023.

The Cam-plex’s plans were endorsed Tuesday by the Campbell County Commission and Campbell County Public Health, though Esposito said the rodeo would have had to follow guidelines set by the Wyoming Department of Health.

While Wyoming’s outdoor events are presently limited to no more than 250 people, Dr. Alexia Harris granted an exception for the Cody Nightly Rodeo to allow up to 600 people at its event.

The National High School Rodeo Association previously announced it was canceling the 2020 National Junior High Finals, which were scheduled for June 21-27 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa.

“It is with heavy hearts we had to cancel this event, the youth are our future, and they deserve the opportunity to showcase their skills in the arena,” NHSRA executive director Higginbotham said. “Their health is our top concern and one of the main factors we are discussing when planning a safe event for these competitors at the 2020 National High School Finals Rodeo.”

For more information, go to nhsra.com/nhsfr.

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