Jim Butler is excited for this year’s Rodeo de Santa Fe because there actually will be a rodeo this year.
It’s been two years since the rodeo last took place thanks to the coronavirus pandemic that hit the state in March 2020 and effectively shut down almost all public events. Butler, the president of the Rodeo de Santa Fe board, said he is glad to be in a position to put on the 72nd edition of the rodeo.
The rodeo begins Wednesday, with gates opening at 5 p.m. and events starting at 6:30 p.m., and will continue through Saturday.
“There were some rodeos that were not as fortunate as us,” Butler said. “We’ve been pretty excited about it. It’s been a long time coming.”
Butler said last year marked the first time the rodeo was canceled, ending 71 consecutive years of cowboys and cowgirls competing in the dog days of summer. The rodeo moved to September, Butler said, because the state’s health order didn’t allow for full capacity for public events, which was an important distinction for rodeo organizers.
Butler said he expects this to be a one-time date change, and the rodeo should return to its usual mid-to-late June slot in 2022.
“At that point, there was no sense in trying to do it,” Butler said. “If we’re not at capacity, we are losing money.”
The board chose September as a fall-back option because it would occur during the New Mexico State Fair, which was holding its rodeo, as well as the Flagstaff Rodeo that begins Thursday. Having several rodeos in the region is important for competitors because of the amount of money they spend to compete.
Generally, the professional rodeo circuit starts to slow down once September hits, and Butler said many participants stop competing by this point of the year because they either run out of money or are preparing for the major end-of-year events like the National Rodeo Finals.
Still, Butler said he expects many of the top performers in each event to make their way to Santa Fe, and some competitors in the local rodeo circuits, especially those in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Turquoise circuit, are jockeying for position to enter those finals.
The Turquoise Circuit Finals will take place Nov. 5 in Camp Verde, Nev.
Butler said the board decided not to add any other specialty acts other than what it normally does because it was more important to simply ensure the rodeo happened. However, the rodeo will have dedicated days to honor different groups.
Opening night is “Rodeo Family Night” with games, giveaways and a visit from the rodeo’s royal court. Also, all kids meals will include a free dessert. Thursday will be “Military Night” with free general admission for all military personnel with a valid ID, and Friday is “First Responders Night” in which all first responders will get in for free with a valid ID.
“We’re glad to get back to this and hopefully, we’ll go back to June next year,” Butler said. “Then, everything to will be back on track.”