Ryan Brennecke / The Bulletin file photo
Bray Armes competes in the steer wrestling portion of the Elite Rodeo Athletes Premier Tour at the Bank of the Cascades Center at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center in Redmond in March
The Elite Rodeo Athletes Premier Tour is experiencing some growing pains in its first year.
The fledgling organization, which debuted in Redmond in March and includes several Central Oregon cowboys, has canceled its final three tour stops “in an effort to maintain the excellence fans experience at ERA events and to ensure the long-term success of the ERA,” according to a press release.
Tour stops in St. Louis, Atlanta and New Orleans originally scheduled for this month and October have been canceled, but the ERA’s World Championship in Dallas, set for Nov. 11-13, is still scheduled.
According to Holly DeLaune, director of communications for the ERA, scheduling and attendance were concerns at the final three stops before Dallas.
“Having events that compete with football would not garner desired attendance,” she said via email Wednesday. “It is important to note that the ERA is moving forward and their original objectives have not changed. The athletes are as committed as ever to revolutionize the sport of rodeo.”
The ERA Tour, which is broadcast on Fox Sports 2, includes 80 of the top cowboys and cowgirls in pro rodeo. It was started in 2015 by rodeo riders hoping to better the sport for both fans and competitors by offering a sort of “all-star” circuit, requiring less travel, but with more prize money available per tour stop than Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeos.
Shortly after the formation of the ERA, the PRCA — long recognized as the pre-eminent competitive organization in pro rodeo — enacted bylaws to keep ERA shareholders out of PRCA rodeos.
Central Oregon locals Bobby Mote, Steven Peebles, Austin Foss and Charly Crawford are all part of the ERA, as both shareholders and competitors.
“It’s fun being a part of building something new,” Mote said Wednesday.
“My whole career I’ve dreamed about something bigger for rodeo, another level,” said the four-time PRCA world bareback champion from Culver. “To actually see it start to take shape, it’s been a challenge, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but at the same time, it’s been a lot of fun. Every time I’ve competed (in the ERA) it’s been against the best guys on the best stock. It’s helped to raise my level.”
The abbreviated ERA tour included just five stops this year: Redmond in March; Nampa, Idaho, and Salt Lake City in April; Albuquerque, New Mexico, in May; and Sheridan, Wyoming, on Sept. 3.
Mote said 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.
“As we got into the year and learned a few things, it was clear to us that we weren’t going to be able to deliver what the ERA brand has to stand for at those events,” Mote said Wednesday. “This year was essentially a pilot year to try some new things, get some things off the ground, and basically get the ball rolling. If there’s ever a time to not do things when you know they’re not gonna work, it’s now. Our main focus is on Dallas, making it the best fan experience possible, and really focusing into 2017 and beyond.
“We’d rather just be sure that people don’t associate ERA with anything other than great attendance, so it just made sense this year, given the circumstances.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0318,