Fair officials withdraw objection to Bigfork rodeo

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Alabama cowboy Blade Elliott holds on as Up Ur Alley bucks during the bareback riding at the Northwest Montana Fair Rodeo in this file photo. (Aaric Bryan/Daily Inter Lake)

In response to an outpouring of support for a proposed Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeo in Bigfork, Flathead County Fairgrounds Manager Mark Campbell and the Fair Board have withdrawn their objection to the Bigfork event.

Campbell said he emailed the PRCA on Wednesday to formally withdraw the objection to the Bigfork rodeo planned July 6-7.

The PRCA board of directors on Jan. 22 voted to reject the Bigfork rodeo based on the objection from fair officials, who maintained the dates of Bigfork’s event were too close to the Northwest Montana Fair PRCA Rodeo in mid-August and would affect marketing and ticket sales for the fair rodeo.

It’s unclear what the PRCA board’s process is for reconsidering the Bigfork rodeo as a PRCA-sanctioned event. PRCA officials couldn’t be reached by press time.

Bigfork rodeo supporters are hopeful, however, that the event can be held as scheduled as an extension of the community’s Fourth of July festivities.

Campbell said that through discussions with Bigfork Chamber of Commerce Director Rebekah King and other Bigfork community supporters he now has a clearer understanding of how both rodeos can be marketed to ensure each rodeo’s sponsors are accommodated and respected.

“We’ve heard loud and clear from Bigfork,” Campbell said. “The fairgrounds has listened and worked closely with the Bigfork Chamber and business members to find resolutions to the potential conflicts.

“We still have some of the original concerns, but have learned how important it is” to find common ground in supporting community events, Campbell said. “We don’t know if there will be impacts [to the fair rodeo in mid-August],” Campbell added. “It’s going to be watching as we go forward and learning as we go.”

King emphasized the resolution came about by “opening the lines of communication” between the Bigfork community and fair officials. She said she appreciates the fair officials’ willingness to listen to public input.

Paul Mutascio, president of the Community Foundation for a Better Bigfork, also had a hand in forging a compromise. He and King approached the county commissioners recently, asking them to take a stand in favor of the Bigfork rodeo and help overturn the PRCA board’s decision to not sanction the event.

After the PRCA ruling, New West Rodeo Productions of Browning, who was on track to provide the stock for the Bigfork rodeo, asked Rob Brisendine of Road Creek Events to explore venues and support in other communities to hold the rodeo.

Brisentine said they gave Campbell and the Fair Board until the end of February to overturn their opposition to the PRCA or they would consider another community.

Brisentine also could not be reached for comment by press time.

Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.

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