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For the week of May 8 - 14, 2002

  Sports

Hailey rodeo is upgraded to PRCA event

Big move upwards for 
Days of the Old West


By JEFF CORDES
Express Staff Writer

In its 55th year, Hailey’s Days of the Old West rodeo has gone big time.

The Sawtooth Rangers Riding Club, a non-profit organization that has produced Hailey’s Independence Day rodeo as its primary fundraiser since 1947, has been approved to host a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) event starting in July 2002.

"We have upgraded our annual July 4th event from IMPRA (Intermountain Professional Rodeo Association) to PRCA," said Sawtooth Rangers Riding Club secretary Amber McMurdo.

She added, "This means the top rodeo cowboys in the country are invited to compete at our rodeo."

Pat and Juanita O’Maley’s Slash T Rodeo Co. of Gooding will continue to provide the stock for Hailey’s rodeo, as they’ve done for 16 years.

Both the O’Maleys and the Sawtooth Rangers have committed to paying more money to become associated with the PRCA, so they can bring better cowboys to Idaho, attract more sponsors and crowds and make more money.

Juanita O’Maley, who has been coming to the Hailey rodeo for close to 40 years, said, "You already see an awfully good rodeo in Hailey. And you’ll still have a lot of the same cowboys, especially in timed events.

"What the PRCA will do is eliminate the lesser cowboy in Hailey. The quality of cowboy will just be better."

Many of the PRCA cowboys in the Wilderness Circuit of Idaho, Nevada and Utah already have their schedules lined up for 2002, so this year’s Hailey rodeo may be a shakedown cruise—with better cowboys coming in the future.

"It might be a little rocky this year," McMurdo said. Juanita O’Maley added, "You’re not going to get the #1 and #2 PRCA cowboys this year. A lot of it is a schedule thing."

What PRCA sanctioning assures is Hailey getting top-notch cowboys.

That’s because, in the PRCA’s circuit system, contestants must compete at a designated percentage of rodeos within their circuit to qualify for first the Wilderness Circuit Finals, held in January at Ogden, Utah, and then the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Pocatello each March.

Here are some of the changes:

·  Added money. Now $1,500 for each of seven events with the Rangers providing $1,000 and sponsors coming up with the other $500. The Days of the Old West rodeo used to provide only $500 in added money.

"The added money draws the cowboys. Each year we’d like to add some more," McMurdo said.

The seven events are the five PRCA standard events—bareback and saddle bronc riding, bull riding, calf roping and steer wrestling—plus two optional events, team roping and women’s barrel racing.

Breakaway roping has been eliminated at the Hailey rodeo.

·  A new roping box. The Rangers have invested in a new box that will hopefully get the cowboys and calves out in a straighter line and make things a lot smoother at show time.

The Rangers installed new bucking chutes two years ago.

·  New announcers and bull fighters. "We have to get PRCA-licensed announcers and bullfighters," McMurdo said about the required contract personnel. "There are a lot more hoops to jump through."

In return, the Rangers intend to benefit from the PRCA’s identity and 60-year tradition, its national sponsors, professional support and officials, plus its media exposure and support and professional standards.

Well aware that the Rangers’ arena lease from the city of Hailey expires in 2007 and there have been many options voiced for the future of Hailey’s rodeo, McMurdo said, "In the long term it could be a huge rodeo, possibly televised like the one they had in Vail."

·  A professional-looking rodeo program. The Blaine County 4-H Club will still sell the informative program, but the 2002 Days of the Old West program will have color quality, which will presumably attract more advertisers.

To advertise in the program call Renee Brochu at 788-6776 by May 31. Or e-mail her at rabrochu@intermedia.com.

·  More advertising banners around the arena. McMurdo said, "In the past we just went to the sponsors we had the previous year. This year we’re soliciting new sponsors. There will just be a lot more banner room."

McMurdo said the impetus for the upgraded Hailey rodeo came from the stock producers, the O’Maleys.

"They came to us and said they needed at least five rodeos in this region to qualify for a PRCA permit," said McMurdo. "Pat told us it looked like a good deal. We trusted him."

Juanita O’Maley said there are only about 65 PRCA stock contracting companies in the country. In the last year Slash T Rodeo Company became the only stock contractor in Idaho with a PRCA card, she said.

"You just can’t go out and get one. They are few and far between. It’s an exclusive group," said O’Maley, likening the PRCA card to owning a liquor license. "Diamond G Rodeo Company in Utah had two, and we bought one of theirs."

Aside from a generally slicker production all around that makes for a lot more work for the Sawtooth Rangers volunteer force, the Hailey rodeo will look much the same.

Hometown bullriding and the Days of the Old West queen contest will remain as big draws. The Slash T stock will be as good as ever if not better.

Juanita O’Maley said, "Hailey is always a fun rodeo to do because it’s such a crazy crowd. We don’t see that kind of crowd everywhere we go."

This year’s Hailey Days of the Old West rodeo will include three evening performances—Thursday through Saturday, July 4-6 at 7:30 p.m., with slack in the timed events after the Friday night performance.

The Rangers have scheduled a public function at which people can ask questions and voice any concerns about the major changes.

The club’s annual breakfast ride is Sunday, May 19 at Glendale Farms south of Bellevue. Breakfast starts at 8 a.m. and the general meeting begins at 10 a.m. Call McMurdo at 788-1232 if you can attend.

At the meeting, the Rangers expect to hear a presentation from Kieran Donahue, whose Rexburg-based company staged a Professional Bull Riding Invitational "Bulls Only" event at Hailey the last two years.

There were some problems with last year’s PBI show. So, before they vote on PBI’s conditional Aug. 25 return to the Hailey arena, the Rangers have asked Donahue to agree to a written contract to make sure the arena is returned to its original state.
"We want to continue to offer events at the arena," McMurdo said. "We had the first Hispanic rodeo Sunday. We hope to have two more, July 25 and Sept. 1. We’ll help them advertise for the Labor Day rodeo."

Sawtooth Rangers officers are president Steve Fairbrother, vice president Mike Kimball, treasurer Michelle Bobbitt and secretary McMurdo plus board members like Bill Sherbine, Laddy Dale, Roxanne Martin, Rupert House and Harold Drussell.

 


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.