LAWTON - Cancellation of numerous rodeos across the country means fewer injuries for competitors, but higher stakes in the ring.
According to a list posted on the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) website, nearly 97 rodeos throughout the United States have been canceled due to COVID-19. Because of so many cancelations, it is no surprise the Lawton Rangers Rodeo has received its highest number of entries this year. This weekend, a record of over 700 competitors will jumpstart the 82nd annual Lawton rodeo.
“Average for us is about 400, give or take,” said Tom Phillips, president of the Lawton Rangers. Phillips said because so many rodeos have closed, it is becoming increasingly difficult for those who make a living off of competing to put food on the table.
“They’re getting hungry,” Phillips said. “ They are trying to make a living and there are no rodeos so they’re all coming to the ones that are open, so every rodeo is seeing good numbers of competitors.” However, events surrounding the competition may play out a little different this season than years prior.
NEW CORONAVIRUS RULES, GUIDELINES
A document of safety regulations for the Lawton rodeo said there are new coronavirus rules and guidelines that will be implemented during the event.
All members and contestants will be required to wear a face mask during the event unless they are competing. If caught without a mask, contestants and members will only receive one warning before being denied access to the area if caught without a mask for a second time.
“The PRCA COVID-19 Ground Rules and Safety Guidelines require the use of personal protection equipment for all members,” the document of regulations said, posted on the PRCA website. “In accordance with CDC recommendations, wear a face mask over the nose and mouth to reduce potential infection.”
Social distancing practices will also be in effect, as members are asked not to gather in groups of 10 or more. Also, only personnel will be allowed behind the bucking chutes and each contestant will only be required a single helper.
In addition, disinfectant spray will be used between each event. “We must recognize the increased responsibility that comes with returning to competition,” Tom Glause, COO and director of rodeo administration said in the Lawton rodeo guideline document. “The PRCA returns in an environment that will ensure the safety of our competitors, volunteers and the community.”
Regardless of the new safety and hygiene practices, Phillips does not believe they will get in the way of the competition at the rodeo.
“They [competitors] just need to be safe, practice their own personal hygiene [and] social distancing to the best of their ability and what they are comfortable with and we’re going to have a good time,” Phillips said.
Despite the new regulations a COVID-19 rodeo brings, Phillips said the Law- ton Rangers are just excited to still be hosting the annual event. “We’re just excited we’re still having an event and our rodeo,” Phillips said. “We’re trying to bring a little bit of normal back in the crazy times and have a good time.”