Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series cancels 2020 season due to virus

Shelby Reardon
Steamboat Pilot & Today
The Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series, which brings in cowboys and cowgirls from all over the country, is canceling its 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Steamboat Today file photo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — For what could be the first time in 117 years, there will not be a rodeo in Steamboat Springs this summer.

The 2020 Pro Rodeo Series was scheduled to bring people to the Brent Romick Arena at the Howelsen Rodeo Grounds for 10 weekends from June 19 to Aug. 22, including the Cowboys Roundup Days over the weekend of July Fourth. Series organizers announced the rodeo’s cancellation Monday.

A few weeks ago, the Steamboat Pro Rodeo board of directors thought the series would be shortened, starting on July 3 and running through the originally intended closing weekend. When July Fourth festivities began to be removed from the calendar due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, any rodeo in Steamboat looked a lot less likely.

“If you can’t do Fourth of July, the whole thing starts to not make financial sense,” said John Shipley, board president and rodeo announcer.

Another major factor in canceling the rodeo was the fact that the recently amended lodging ban in Routt County still doesn’t allow for people to stay in hotels. Without hotels, people can’t come in from out of town and attend the rodeo. While many locals support and attend the rodeo, relying on locals-only attendance isn’t financially feasible.

Even if people were allowed to attend the rodeo, it would be far fewer than usual, as 6-feet social distancing standards come into play.

The rodeo, run by an all-volunteer board, aims to break even each year and tries to have a “rainy day” fund for when more than one weekend is rained out and funds start to slip. So, a partial season, or a poorly attended season, would not be a smart investment.

Additionally, sponsors have less to invest with businesses suffering due to closures invoked by COVID-19.

“I hate it, but it’s the right thing to do for the health of our contestants, spectators, volunteers, sponsors, stock contractors, staff, and quite frankly, the whole community,” Board Chairman Brent Romick said.

Season ticket holders have the option to get a refund or simply push their funds toward a 2021 season pass and will be able to find more information at

Steamboat Springs was supposed to host a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, or PRCA, rodeo on July 19 and 20, but that event also has been canceled.

The PRCA has an updated event schedule and will host its first rodeo in Cave Creek, Arizona, this weekend. The rodeo will not have an audience in attendance but will instead be viewable on the Cowboy Channel. The event was aided by the PRCA’s Kick Open the Chutes initiative that helps jumpstart rodeos that are struggling. A rodeo viewed via the internet was briefly discussed, but ultimately, didn’t catch any traction.

“Our costs of performance, before sponsorship offsets anything, are pretty good-sized numbers,” Shipley said. “There just wasn’t a market for it. … We didn’t feel like that was any kind of viable option for Steamboat Springs.”

While the rodeo didn’t make money directly, it did attract visitors from out of town into the heart of the city where they could support small businesses. Shipley said not having a rodeo for the first time in over a century will be a huge loss to the locals as well.

“I know some people that buy season passes and don’t even go to the rodeo,” Shipley said. “They just buy them so they can go down there and have barbecue every weekend. I think locally it’s going to be a big hole in the social calendar.”