The quality of competition riding and roping inside the Philomath Frolic & Rodeo arena this summer has the potential to be the best lineup ever seen in this small community roundup. But with restrictions that must be enforced, fewer people will be able to enjoy the action.
The Philomath rodeo, which runs July 8-10, is included on a short list of venues available for competitors with many others canceled.
“As far as contestants go, we’re going to have a huge year this year because there’s not going to be a lot of other places that weekend where people can go,” said Chris Workman, who sits on the Frolic & Rodeo board and oversees publicity and events. “I think we’ll have a lot of cowboys and cowgirls that if they don’t want to travel to Idaho or travel to Montana, they’re going to be coming to Philomath, Oregon, and putting on their shows.”
In fact, the board anticipates “maxing out” on every event.
“We’re limited on the number of contestants that we can have during the rodeo itself each night and then anything over that, then they go to slack,” Workman said. “You can win an event even if you compete during slack. … You’re still there, you’re just not in the (evening) performance.”
In addition to the usual slack on Friday morning, organizers may need to add additional opportunities on Thursday morning and maybe even early Saturday afternoon to accommodate all of the contestants.
“They want a rodeo … they want to come out, that’s what they want to be doing,” Workman said about rodeo contestants. “Nobody does rodeo for the money, they do it because they enjoy doing it. The money is an added bonus.”
On the spectator end of things, however, the numbers will need to be lower. The Frolic & Rodeo has been working with its ticket sales vendor to create seating options for folks who purchase online.
“They have an algorithm in place in their ticketing system where once you select your tickets … then it will block out the tickets surrounding those,” Workman explained. “So when the next people go to select their tickets, they won’t be able to go there, they’re going to have to stay one seat away from everybody the whole time.”
As such, Workman said the rodeo encourages people to buy tickets in a group for those who really want to sit together.
The rodeo arena has a capacity of 2,200 and the restrictions cut that in half to 1,100. However, a recent development may allow more than 1,100 to attend because there are exceptions for those who are COVID-19 vaccinated.
“The governor just announced Wednesday that we can have fully vaccinated sections at sporting events, which includes rodeos,” Workman said. “We’re looking at having a couple of the sections of the bleachers that would be for vaccinated-only individuals, in which we have no capacity limits at all. So we’re looking at that.”
Proof of vaccination would be required upon check-in.
“We have to be very careful in our ticketing and the information we put out there that if you’re going to sit in the vaccinated-only section, you’ve got to show proof of vaccination,” Workman said.
Several rodeos chose to cancel a month ago with organizers needing to make decisions, including Molalla, which traditionally occurs the weekend before the Frolic. But the Philomath board took a chance and waited a few more weeks.
“If we would’ve made the decision on May 1, we would’ve had to have canceled,” Workman said. “It was just because of the new criteria and the new things coming out … that’s the only reason that gave us some hope that we could do the rodeo, even if at 50%.”
The governor’s office opened the door to such events when it changed the risk scale criteria to a county’s vaccination rate. Benton County has great numbers and is considered low risk.
As for the other events, such as a 5-kilometer run, cornhole tournament, home run derby, the parade and others, Frolic & Rodeo board chairs continue to work on the details. Workman said he needs to check with the Benton County Health Department on his interpretation of restrictions when it comes to the parade.
“We can control within the parade but we don’t really have a lot of control where people are standing and how close,” he said. “My reading is as long as we have signage throughout the parade route telling spectators to social distance and mask up and those types of things, we should be OK.”
On various other events, there is little guidance on specific activities, so organizers find something similar and move forward with what needs to be done. The 5K run, for example, may need to utilize a staggered start.
“There’s no guidance for a cornhole tournament,” Workman said with a laugh. “The state’s not taken the time to provide a specific guide there, so there’s some interpretation … what’s it most similar to.”
The food carts, on the other hand, have plenty of clear guidance on requirements from Oregon Health Authority. The Frolic & Rodeo may cut down on the numbers selling and serving.
“We always want our vendors to have successful weekends with us and if there’s too many of them with fewer people, they’ll all make a little bit less money than they normally do,” Workman said. “So we may go from eight to 10 food vendors down to six to eight. Our booth chair is looking at that right now.”
The post-rodeo dance will go on as planned but again, with a different look.
“We’re looking to enlarge the Yew Wood Corral footprint because we will be limited to 50% capacity there as well,” Workman said, adding that volunteer “counters” will be making sure that the crowd remains within acceptable numbers.
“We’re going to have to be very careful with ticket sales, we’re going to have to be very careful with people coming into the beer garden, we’ll even have to be careful with the Kids Korner area … everything’s going to be spaced out a little bit more,“ he added.
Also in place will be a more controlled environment involving the numbers at the rodeo grounds.
“In order to keep track of our numbers better, we are going to go back to taking tickets at the front gate instead of at the stadium because we need to have a better idea of who’s coming in as opposed to just in the stands,” Workman said. “We have to be able to know how many people are there because we do have maximum capacity for the entire site. It’s the total square area divided by 35 square feet per person, that’s our maximum capacity.”
Workman encourages people to purchase tickets online.
“You’ll always be able to buy tickets at the rodeo grounds the day of, but it’s just so much more convenient to go online and buy them ahead of time, this year especially with having to do tickets at the front gate,” he said.
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