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COVID-19 forces cancellation of Gerry rodeo

GERRY, N.Y. – The Gerry Fire Department has voted to postpone their 76th annual Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeo until Aug. 4 to 7 of next summer due to circumstances beyond their control caused by the coronavirus.

Rodeo chairman Tom Atwell calls this the “toughest decision they have ever made” as this rodeo has been a tradition in Western New York since 1945 and the fire department depends on this event for much of their operating budget. However. he says that the health of fans, contestants, and volunteers was a primary concern as the rodeo committee struggled for the past several months with whether they could safely put on the rodeo.

He added that they waited as long as possible to make this decision, hoping conditions would improve, but that they were really left no choice after recent executive orders by New York state Gov. Andrew Cuomo limiting crowds to one-third of the arena capacity and ordering that anyone coming from any of the 14 states that are seeing increases in virus cases would have to quarantine for 14 days. Also, there have been no specific guidelines from the governor’s office as to how serving the barbeque dinners could be handled.

Atwell explained that because of these attendance limits, the department would probably lose money as they invest a sizeable amount to produce the rodeo and, since the fire department receives some money from the taxpayers and from individual donations, it is important that they operate in a financially responsible manner as their primary responsibility is to protect the lives and property of the people they serve.

In addition, he says that many of the cowboys and cowgirls would be prevented from competing since they come from states affected by the 14-day quarantine edict. This would further affect the financial situation as part of the prize money comes from entry fees paid by the contestants.

Another factor was the price of food for the dinners, which has increased drastically since the pandemic hit. Head chef Bruce Gustafson says the price of beef alone has nearly doubled in the past few months due to the closing of meat processing plants, making it difficult to make a profit on the dinners.

Fire department president Paul Atwell says he realizes that fans, contestants, and volunteers alike will be disappointed, but that he hopes they will understand and that they will support us as we “bounce back with renewed enthusiasm to make the 2021 rodeo one of the best in our history.”

Following the vote to postpone, the department passed a resolution thanking the rodeo chairman and his committee for their very difficult work over the past several months and pledging to work together to continue this tradition of bringing professional rodeo to our area.

An important part of the rodeo experience will still be available as the fire department also voted to feature a drive-thru version of their famous beef barbeque dinners at a date to be determined soon. Chef Bruce Gustafson says that he and his kitchen staff “will do their best to provide a delicious taste of rodeo cuisine in spite of the postponement of the rodeo”.

The 75-year history of this rodeo has made it the longest consecutively running rodeo east of the Mississippi. It is the major fund-raising event for the Gerry Volunteer Fire Department which answers nearly 300 fire and emergency call each year. For further information about the Gerry Rodeo and its history, fans may visit the rodeo website www.gerryrodeo.org.

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