PRESTON – The 85th annual celebration of That Famous Preston Night Rodeo just became another victim of COVID-19.
“We’re done. We had to call it,” said That Famous Preston Night Rodeo Committee Chairman Kris Beckstead Monday afternoon. “We have been meeting with the Idaho Department of Health. They told us to cancel the carnival, so we canceled the carnival. They told us to cancel the sidewalk sale. We canceled the sidewalk sale.
“They told us to cancel all the hamburger and food stands. We canceled the hamburger and food stands. They wanted us to make sure everyone had a mask, so we had that in place.”
Thousands of people generally come to Preston to enjoy three full days and nights of rodeo, entertainment, City of Fun Carnival, sidewalk sales, food and crafts and the much-anticipated night parade.
She said the health department then came to them and wanted the rodeo to only sell 35 percent of the seats. When the rodeo committee roped off the seats to see what how it looked, they could see it wasn’t going to happen.
“We sat down and looked at all the numbers and decided we couldn’t make it work,” she said. “We have financial commitments that we would have to take care of. You have to sell tickets to have a rodeo.”
They had over 7,000 tickets sold already, sponsors had put in money. Beckstead said ticket holders will either use it to hold their place for next year’s rodeo or have the money returned to them.
“Some rodeos have gigantic sponsors, or they jack the seat prices up,” she said. “After reviewing the numbers, we just couldn’t make it work.”
Rodeo weekend in Preston pumps millions of dollars into the Franklin County economy and families from all over the country come home to enjoy the festivities.
Some say more families come home for rodeo than come home for Christmas. Class reunions are planned during rodeo time because they know people are going to be in town.
“It breaks my heart. I have been sad all day,” Beckstead said. “I thought it would happen and somehow we could make it work. It’s hard.”
The rodeo has been voted the best rodeo in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Wilderness Circuit multiple times over the last decade and it attracts some of the best cowboys in the business.
“We had to call the clown, the announcer, the stock contractor and everyone else and tell them we weren’t going to do it,” she said. “It effects a lot of people.
“We want it to be safe, but it still hurts.”