ERA cancels 2017 season; Redmond rodeo now a PRCA event

 

Stockton Graves competes in the steer wrestling portion of the Elite Rodeo Athletes Premier Tour event at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center last March. Redmond will host a big rodeo again this spring, but it will be a PRCA-sanctioned event, not ERA. (Bulletin file photo/Ryan Brennecke)

Redmond rodeo changes course after ERA cancels 2017 season

By Mark Morical, The Bulletin, @MarkMorical

Published Jan 24, 2017 at 12:11AM

PRCA High Desert Stampede Rodeo 

Where: Bank of the Cascades Center at the Deschutes County fairgounds in Redmond 

When: March 31-April 1, 7 p.m. both nights 

Ticket prices: $20 to $50, on sale starting Feb. 1 

Website: www.highdesertstampede.com

Big-time rodeo action is still coming to Redmond this spring, but in a different format. 

The High Desert Stampede will host a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event March 31 and April 1 at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center. 

The event was originally slated as a stop on the fledgling Elite Rodeo Athletes tour, but the ERA has canceled its 2017 season, according to interim president Bobby Mote. 

“We’re making a lot of plans and changes that will start in 2018,” Mote told The Bulletin on Monday. “2017 will be devoted to planning and preparation for that.” 

High Desert Stampede chairman Denis Fast said his group was working with the ERA up to the middle of December, but the local rodeo promotion organization was notified at the end of the month that the ERA planned to suspend the 2017 season. 

“They wanted to fix some of the problems from last year and go through a whole marketing changeover,” Fast said. “And boy, it put us in a lurch. Our choice was to fold our tent or do something. So, long story short, we’re putting on a PRCA rodeo. We’ll have a pretty high-money payback with $7,500 per event. A lot of the stars from last year have reached out to us and said they are planning on coming.” 

The ERA — which debuted in Redmond last March — was formed as a supplement to the PRCA, but that changed when the PRCA enacted new bylaws in late 2015 that excluded ERA shareholders. 

Approximately 80 of the top cowboys and cowgirls in pro rodeo formed the ERA as a sort of all-star tour in an attempt to raise the profile of their sport for both fans and competitors, allowing many of the best riders to compete against each other while limiting travel for the contestants. 

The ERA canceled its final three tour stops of the 2016 season last fall — in St. Louis, Atlanta and New Orleans — due to predicted poor attendance in those big markets. The abbreviated ERA tour included just five stops. 

Mote — the four-time PRCA world bareback champion from Culver — said in November that the size of the markets in St. Louis, Atlanta and New Orleans created a challenge for the ERA. In smaller markets, the ERA can rely on rodeo committees — such as the High Desert Stampede in Redmond — to help with marketing. 

But the ERA needed more than one stop for the 2017 tour. 

“ERA is basically a startup business, and looking at the big picture of where ERA wants to see rodeo go, it’s important that the planning is done correctly,” Mote said Monday. “Personally, I don’t feel the preparation was adequate last year and we don’t want to continue that trend.” 

Steve Rempelos, chief marketing officer for the PRCA, confirmed Monday that cowboys and cowgirls with a PRCA membership can compete in its rodeos. Former ERA rodeo riders would have to relinquish their ERA shares, then apply and be granted PRCA membership, Rempelos explained. 

“We’ve urged the (ERA) shareholders to relinquish their shares to be able to participate in those (PRCA) rodeos, so they can come into compliance,” Mote said. 

Fast said he is still expecting some of the biggest names in rodeo to compete in Redmond this spring, adding that the rodeo will also serve as the kickoff to the Columbia River Circuit season. 

— Reporter: 541-383-0318, 

mmorical@bendbulletin.com