BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – With the campfires being stamped out and trailers finding their way outta town, the 2017 Tri-State Rodeo may be remembered as one of the best ever.
Added events like the Friday night bullfights, coupled with the wildly popular CINCH Shootout, taking a flyer on 90s sensation Smash Mouth, and some awesome weather has General Chairman Josh Denning exhaling and thinking toward 2018.
Saturday’s performance put a wrap on the season with Nashville Country Star Jon Pardi giving the crowd one more reason to whoop and holler after MC Boyd Polhamus said goodbye to the crowd and Rodeo competitors left it all on the arena dirt to walk away with Tri-State Rodeo championships.
Denning said Saturday night was close to a sellout and preliminary numbers indicate that more than 32,000 people came to the performances Wednesday through Saturday and that doesn’t include the Lil Spurs rodeo and Special Kids rodeos that were free. Those two events set records for participation, too.
“We had record numbers on our Li’l Spurs Rodeo,” Denning said. “We had to shut down the registration early and next year we’ll probably have to cap that at 166 riders. And we just had a huge turnout for the Special Kids Rodeo on Sunday.”
Denning, who has one more year left as General Chairman said this was by far the best rodeo in terms of numbers in his term.
“I don’t know how it would rank among the other chairman. I think Mike Culbertson set a record, but I think we’ll have about 32,000 people through so it might be in the top five,” Denning said.
He said the temperatures that hovered in the 60s and 70s for the performances and breezes during the day events in the early part of the week helped with the attendance.
“I couldn’t have asked for better weather. Cody Johnson put on a great show Thursday and Smash Mouth was great on Friday.”
The CINCH Shootout continues to pack the C.E. “Eddie” Richards Arena on Wednesday night. Denning said the competitors are giving the fans everything to be expected.
“It’s just an awesome event. That’s a (National Finals Rodeo) NFR caliber event and they gave exactly what we were looking for.”
This was also the first-year for the Bull Fighters Only event that was held Friday. Denning said the rodeo committee may look at expanding that event next year.
“I’ve heard some really good things from people about the BFO event. We thought that was a great event and we’ll see what we can do to get them back for maybe more than one night next year.”
He said the committee may also look to social media next year to firm up what kind of music the fans want to have as part of the rodeo.
“We’re still trying to gauge if they are coming out for the rodeo or the music. It’s a juggling act and we want to be able to provide what the fans want. So we want to get to our crowd on Facebook or whatever and just ask what they like and what they want as part of the rodeo, while at the same time keeping the tickets affordable. We come up against that every year. We’d love to bring in a Garth Brooks but we can’t just can’t keep it affordable that way,” Denning said.