Let’s face it, rodeo is part of our heritage and it used to be a big thing in Pahrump, but now we are lucky to have one a year.
Is the town doing enough to get quality rodeo to return and what is keeping the town from getting more than one rodeo per year?
In 2010 the headline read that the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association was returning to town. That fell through. Since then, Pahrump has basically had only one rodeo per year. The last PRCA rodeo was in 2009.
In the past, the town once had up to eight or nine rodeos. Those days are long gone, but just one rodeo a year certainly is not sitting well with most people in this town.
Why does our town only have one rodeo per year now? To answer this question one must look to the past when the PRCA rodeo was in town.
Carlton McCaslin, a longtime resident of Pahrump, ran the rodeo for two years in the early 90s. He said the key to quality rodeo is getting sponsors.
“You don’t make your money from the attendance here in Pahrump,” he said. “You have to get sponsors.”
McCaslin was referring to the size of the arena, which only seats 1,500 people.This meant the rodeo committee had to raise a lot of money. Back in the 90s they had to raise $80,000 to put on a PRCA rodeo.
“We would get big donations from the casinos, like $5,000 from the Nugget, and Saddle West,” McCaslin said. “Ace Hardware was around and before Saitta Trudeau, that Dodge gave a lot of money too. A strong promoter should be able to get anyone.”
McCaslin said even if it’s not a PRCA rodeo, a strong promoter can still fill the stands.
He said once you get the rodeo, people need to understand there are other costs.There are stock contractors and maybe announcers to pay too.
For him though, the sponsorship was the biggest thing to having a good rodeo. He emphasized this because the size of the arena really didn’t come into play.
“Sure, a bigger arena might help cut the cost,” he said. “But the size of the arena should not be a barrier to bringing in a good show.Of course that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t build a new arena. I hope they do.”
McCaslin believes the town should be able to support two big rodeos a year and maybe a smaller bull riding event.
“We could have one in the fall and one in the spring,” he said.
The oldtime promoter said the big companies stopped supporting the rodeo and for the rodeo to be successful they have to kick in.
“The main thing was the economy,” McCaslin said.
In addition to the big sponsors, he said that the dates in the rodeo have to be right.
“You can’t be a stand-alone rodeo,” McCaslin said. “Which means you don’t want to be the only rodeo in the area. Cowboys want to hit two or three in the area if they can.”
Bob Holleman, who ran the rodeo before McCaslin, agreed with McCaslin on the importance of sponsors.
“Back when I was doing rodeo, the big advertisers got special ads and were treated well,” he said.
Also for the rodeo, the prize money has to be there. Cowboys won’t travel for a single event and poor money. Times are tough now because there are less big companies in town.”
He said it takes a good effort on the town and a good group of people to get the good rodeos back.
Matt Luis heads the arena committee, which is in charge of booking the arena events. He agrees with McCaslin on the sponsors and said without them the rodeo can’t exist in the town.
“Recently sponsorships are up and attitudes to bringing rodeo back is better,” Luis said.
“The economy is also improving.”
Salli Kerr is the chief executive officer for the Pahrump Valley Chamber of Commerce and she said she is still working on the rodeo sponsors for this year’s Rocky Mountain Rodeo Association rodeo at the Fall Festival.
“I can’t imagine facing $80,000 worth of sponsors,” she said speaking for the chamber. “Why we only have one rodeo in town comes down to the arena size, sponsorships in town, and the date we have our Fall Festival.”
She said when they changed the date of the festival to the end of September instead of the beginning, this meant cowboys were no longer seeking points and had no reason to come to Pahrump. But she agrees that sponsorship is a big reason that the big rodeos are not around anymore and the reason there is only one during the year.
Kerr said the chamber believes the economy is turning around and this year has been a good year for sponsors.
“People need to remember that I am not the only one in town asking for money from these businesses. The town now supports a Liberty Festival, a Balloon Festival and the Fall Festival and it’s mostly the same businesses donating the money. This sum is around $80,000 for the whole year, and not just one event. The economy is just not there yet for them to give any more.”
Kerr said the chamber has raised about $10,000 in sponsorship for this year’s rodeo.
“We have come a long way,” Kerr said. “Our attendance was better last year and we had a great halftime show. People were overall pleased with the rodeo and so were the sponsors.”
The small size of the McCulloch Arena has prevented the town from recouping the cost of getting a PRCA type rodeo. The county is currently exploring possible new arena sites. The newest one is being presented to the county as a possible special events center on the 138-acre Binion property. Two developers known as the Delta Commercial Group and Great American Capital are behind the proposal.