For the first time in over 31 years Virden’s August rodeo weekend is called off for COVID-19 concerns. Virden won’t see the bustle on town streets, the usual fairgrounds overflowing with horses and riders, trailers and campers. The indoor arena will be devoid of the colour and pageantry of rodeo flags, and national competition.
In a unanimous decision, Virden’s Indoor Rodeo & Wild West Daze umbrella committee has cancelled the entire event to ensure the need for distancing and/or self-isolation can be observed if need be in August.
Rodeo Chairman Thomas Hagan spoke for the handful of committee chairs who participated in a conference call to discuss the matter last week. “It was a unanimous decision,” he stated.
As they considered the many other summer sporting events that have been called off for 2020, any uncertainty that the event could be held became a definite ‘no’, for the committee.
The Virden rodeo provides some of the best paying Manitoba and Canadian Rodeo Cowboy Association purses, with money added to the events (beyond entry fees).
Virden local businesses and industry-related interests each year contribute thousands of dollars to sponsor events at the signature event.
“There’s a lot of sponsors involved,” says Hagan, concerned for people and businesses who are suffering under new economic pressures since COVID-19.
Sponsor organizer Steve Dryden explained the decision in a letter to sponsors, “Our committees felt that the health of our community, our sponsors and our volunteers was paramount over all other factors. Today we are, without doubt, all concerned for our health and well-being given the current circumstances with the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this, coupled with a major downturn in our economy, we felt it prudent to make this decision at this time.”
Hagan noted that the economy wasn’t the main factor for the decision.
“To be honest… that helped us make our decision.”
But he pointed to the nearly 300 volunteers needed to run the horse events and rodeo action plus everything from the Thursday noon barbecue, street fair, Friday supper, Saturday parade, dance and the demolition derby on Sunday.
Rodeo stock and ring riders, bull fighters and announcers, even the award saddles, buckles and prizes – are all too much to organize on short notice.
Originally slated for Aug. 13-16 the three-day rodeo plus Thursday celebrations bring thousands of people to Virden. Accommodations including the campground are busy. Pubs, restaurants and stores all benefit.
This year, Hagan figures that rodeo on a small scale may continue, but Virden Indoor Rodeo & Wild West Daze will take a year off.