Rodeo a go, but capacity in limbo
After a year of waiting due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the St. Paul Rodeo will return June 30 through July 4, bringing with it all the history and tradition the annual rite typically has in store. What the rodeo and surrounding events will ultimately look like, however, remains uncertain due to state and countywide restrictions.
"What guides us is our mission, which is supporting our community by producing a world class rodeo," St. Paul Rodeo general manager Cindy Schonholtz said. "We're trying to do that by starting with the rodeo itself and moving outward as restrictions allow us to have different events around the rodeo."
Rodeo officials started ticket sales last year but put them on pause due to potential capacity limits and the uncertain nature of the pandemic. Tickets will go back on sale to the general public once the plan for capacity is determined.
If it were held today, the rodeo grounds could only hold 15 percent of its capacity due to Marion County being considered "High Risk" by the Oregon Health Authority. That is expected to change significantly in the next month, Schonholtz said.
"We have to make a decision regarding the midway, parade and the carnival," she said. "We know we are going to have vendors and food vendors outside, along with a tent that is an extension of the Tack Room Saloon. We're waiting on a final decision about the rest until we get word from the state and county."
If the state reaches Gov. Kate Brown's 70% threshold of people having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, or Marion County hits 65%, then the rodeo will be able to operate at 50% capacity because Marion County will be considered "Low Risk." A larger event surrounding the rodeo with more fanfare provides additional incentive for fans throughout the state to get their shot.
The expectation at this point is that rodeo-goers won't have to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for entry, though, nor will they likely have to wear masks in outdoor spaces. Indoor areas may require masks or potential proof of vaccination as some restaurants have done, but nothing is set in stone quite yet and rodeo officials are hesitant to encourage vaccination among those in the community, calling it a "private matter."
"We are open in the fact that a lot of what we do depends on the vaccination level, both in the state and in Marion County specifically," Schonholtz said. "We're not quite comfortable in giving people advice on whether or not to have a vaccine, but we will let them know what it means for us in our ability to host a larger event. Those numbers matter for us."
The financial challenges of not having a rodeo in 2020 were met with massive support from sponsors and community members, Schonholtz said. A grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust made up some of the expenses around maintaining the rodeo grounds.
No matter how many people are allowed into the rodeo come late June and early July, the overall support for the event remains as strong as it's ever been, Schonholtz said. And fan interest in tickets remains high as they await word on capacity.
"We are very fortunate that our sponsors have stepped up, even though they don't know how many people we'll be able to have," she said. "That's obviously a big part of why they want to be a sponsor. As a whole they've said they believe in our mission and are with us no matter what, and that has meant a lot to us."
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