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Rodeo cancelled, Föhn and WMMF up in the air

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Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Both Hinton’s River Valley Riding Association (RVRA) fundraising auction and the 24th Mary Reimer Memorial Rodeo have been cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The date for the fundraising auction, held in April every year, was originally pushed back after COVID related restrictions were announced in mid-March.

The fundraising auction kicks of the preparations for the rodeo and organizers felt it wasn’t fair to ask their sponsors for money during this time. During a silent live auction, the main sponsorships for the different chutes and the centre gate can be auctioned off for upwards of thousands of dollars depending on the year. 

“We just have so many faithful sponsors in Hinton that are mostly small businesses. It just broke our hearts to suggest asking them for money at this time,” said Shauna Cruden,  RVRA member and rodeo organizer.

She added that if people can revitalize the local economy, the rodeo could be OK again in 2021.

“I think definitely a small community like Hinton will be hurting for some time over this. We may have to change around how we do things,” Cruden said.

Pushing back the auction later into the year in 2021 may give people more time to rebound, she added.

With no idea of when restrictions on gatherings would be lifted, the association didn’t want to go ahead with planning, sponsorships, and booking everything for the rodeo if there was any chance they would be forced to cancel later. 

Cruden said the association may be able to go ahead with a few events throughout the summer like the barrel series, Gymkhana, and a poker ride. 

Even though the Mary Reimer Park, which includes the RVRA facilities, is currently closed due to the Town’s COVID restrictions, decisions to host those smaller events can be made on a shorter term. RVRA doesn’t have control over how long Mary Reimer Park remains closed, and Cruden added they have no idea if it could last all summer.

This closure also affects memberships of RVRA as their main benefit is access to the arena at Mary Reimer Park.

“It really affects the local community because if you don’t have an arena at home, you’re relying on that Mary Reimer facility and there’s nobody in there riding now,” Cruden said.

Cruden added that while there are other ways to get a horse in shape for rodeo season, many rodeo competitions have already been cancelled.

“It’s really unfortunate, [cancelling the rodeo] was such a big decision for us to make. It breaks our heart for our stock contractor as well, John Duffy, he’s been our stock contractor from the beginning and most of his rodeos this summer are cancelled so that’s a huge hit for him,” Cruden added.

Along with the Mary Reimer Memorial Rodeo, Brule’s rodeo has also been cancelled and the Medicine Lodge rodeo has been postponed until May 2021.

The Brule Ruffout Rodeo, slated for early May, cancelled for the first time in its 53 year history, the group stated in an online post. This year is also the first time since its inception that the Mary Reimer Memorial Rodeo, which was to be held in late July, is cancelled.

Preparations for the auction had already begun with booking a facility and putting together sponsor letters. The band and the stock contractors were also already booked for this year’s rodeo.

Other local events like the Fohn Festival, which draws thousands of people to Green Square each July 1,  are closely monitoring the COVID situation.

Fohn Fest organizers are meeting to discuss the changing regulations in the coming days and Morgan Roberts, chair of the Föhn Fest, added that at the end of the day the decision may be out of their hands anyway.

Wild Mountain Music Fest, which also draws a few thousand people over the course of a weekend,  stated that they would be making an announcement about their July 17 -19 event soon.

*Wild Mountain Music Fest and Hinton’s Fohn Fest have since been cancelled.