The Flathead County Fair Board and fairgrounds manager have officially reversed their opposition to a proposed summer rodeo in Bigfork after the community voiced its support for the event.
“This was really about cooperation and communication,” Bigfork Area Chamber of Commerce director Rebekah King said.
Mark Campbell, fairgrounds manager, said discussions between Bigfork rodeo supporters and fair management were productive and important.
“We’ve learned a lot more, and we’ve learned how important this is to the Bigfork community,” Campbell said.
On Jan. 22, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) rejected an application from the Bigfork Summer Rodeo for sanctioning. Prior to the decision, Campbell and the fair board had objected to holding a new PRCA-designated event in the valley during the summer.
Their objections were not about another rodeo, but purely about the PRCA designation, Campbell said. This year the Northwest Montana Fair will hold its 65th PRCA-sanctioned rodeo, and because of its status as an existing event, it was given the right to weigh in on the newly proposed event.
Put on by New West Rodeo Productions, the Bigfork Summer Rodeo would run July 6-7, while the Northwest Montana Fair takes place Aug. 15-19.
Campbell’s original objections included worries about losing sponsorship dollars to the new rodeo, but he said recent discussions among all the interested parties have led to a clear understanding of marketing on both sides.
King said the Bigfork chamber, along with Paul Mutascio at the Community Foundation for a Better Bigfork, got involved when it became clear how much of an asset this event would be for the area, especially when visitor numbers swell over the Fourth of July.
Campbell and fair board chair Sam Nunnally said they received word about the potential new rodeo in December, and got a call the next day from the PRCA to see if they had any comment on the project.
They registered an objection based on the PRCA sanctioning, Campbell said, and didn’t hear anything about it again until about a week before the Jan. 22 PRCA meeting, when the Bigfork community started reaching out.
After doing more research, the board agreed to reverse its opposition to the sanctioning, but it’s unknown if or when the PRCA would change its decision. Campbell said he sent the email officially removing the fair’s objections on Feb. 7.
The decision to change its objection arose from having more information but also from an understanding that the Flathead community is changing and growing, Campbell said.
“We don’t know if there will be impacts (on the fair’s rodeo),” Campbell said. “It’s going to be watching as we go forward and learning as we go.”