Cody’s nightly rodeos can begin June 15 with 600 spectators, a health official confirmed Monday, less than a week after Gov. Mark Gordon and organizers announced that six major statewide rodeo events would not be held this summer because of the ongoing pandemic.
Cody officials did not request an exception for the main Cody Stampede, one of the six rodeos canceled last week, state and rodeo officials said. They did previously request that the nightly rodeos could be held, though that request was not approved. On Friday, event president Michael Darby said a revised request was being resubmitted. He also said there were “discussions about having some form of a Fourth of July celebration.”
A message sent to Darby on Monday was not immediately returned. According to the organization’s website, the nightly rodeos have been held since 1938 and extend from June to August.
Health Department spokeswoman Kim Deti confirmed that state health officer Dr. Alexia Harrist had given the go-ahead for the nightly events, a staple of Cody summers, albeit with a maximum of 600 spectators.
A state order that expires June 15 caps the number of spectators at outdoor events to 250. There have been limitations on gatherings, both indoors and outdoors, for more than two months as part of a statewide effort to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
The Cody Stampede Board had wanted to begin the rodeos June 1 with an audience of 480 people — or 15 percent of the arena’s capacity. Emails from Harrist to a Cody Stampede official explained that the night rodeos would be allowed, but she was uncomfortable exceeding the 250 person cap before June 15, though she would consider a variance request.
Darby told the Star-Tribune on Friday he had been working on a modified variance request that would begin June 15.
While 600 spectators is a far cry from the venue’s 3,200 capacity, it is an increase from the 480 capacity event organizers had originally requested from the state.
Last week, after Gordon and organizers for the state’s largest rodeos announced that they had agreed to cancel the events, Cody Stampede officials posted to their Facebook page that they had not agreed to the cancellation. Darby later clarified to the Star-Tribune that organizers’ concern was about the nightly rodeo, not the full event.
In an emotional press conference announcing the cancellations last week, Gordon said that “no one hates this more than me” and that “this reality is not an easy one.” He and health officials adamantly maintained that they did not order the cancellation of the events unilaterally.
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