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Crooked River Roundup Board announces event will not take place this summer due to pandemic

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Horse races canceled due to pandemic.

The Crooked River Roundup Race Meet is officially canceled for 2020.

The decision was announced Friday, two weeks after the roundup board announced the cancelation of the rodeo.

"We feel really bad because I really believe that this is a time when our community probably needed a night at the races more than they have ever needed it before," said Race Chair Doug Smith.

The event was scheduled for July 15-18, and since Gov. Kate Brown has recommended canceling or significantly modifying events that draw large numbers until at least September, race meet organizers didn't see a viable way to hold the event with a live crowd.

"I don't believe that the social distancing guidelines that are in place by the State of Oregon will allow us to do anything," Smith said. "I'd sure hate to be the person who had to stand outside the gate and say, 'Oh, you 250 can get in, but the rest of your can't,' so I don't think a limited crowd would work."

The roundup board considered other options, such as a simulcast version of the races where people wager online, or delaying the races until sometime in the fall, but none of the ideas looked feasible. The event would either face financial difficulties or scheduling conflicts with other major horse racing meets.

"The other thing is the reason we put on the Crooked River Roundup Race Meet is to stir economic activity in Prineville," Smith added. "If we ran it with no spectators, it wasn't going to stir economic activity in Prineville. So now you reach out to your sponsors and say, 'Gosh, sponsor this thing that's not going to help you that much.'"

Smith said that board members are brokenhearted about the decision to cancel the 2020 race meet, but at the same time, they don't want to put the community at risk of an outbreak.

"If we had somebody come in from out of the area and suddenly Crook County instead of having one confirmed COVID case has 25 the next week, you just couldn't take that chance," he said.

Without a race meet to organize this summer, the focus has shifted to helping other community events and needs. Smith said the roundup board has already reached out to the Crook County Fair Board offering to help them in whatever way it can.

"The roundup board is very dedicated to making good things happen in the community," Smith said.

In addition, the Oregon Racing Commission money that helps fund the race meet will be used to try to help keep horsemen and riders in business at other Oregon venues.

"We felt like the best thing for us to do is to take it (the cancelation) and try to turn it into a positive as best we can," Smith said.

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