By: Kendra Santos
It’s hard to complain about rain with record heatwaves, draughts and wildfires waging war on our great nation right now. But when Mother Nature decides to dump rain torrential-downpour style on a night you have a packed house full of rodeo fans sitting on metal bleachers with lightning strikes all around, swift action must be taken.
The powers that be at the $562,500 World Champions Rodeo Alliance’s July 20-24 Days of ’47 Cowboy Games & Rodeo in Salt Lake City pounced as it poured last night, and started at daylight today delivering on the heroic measures needed to maintain the competitive integrity due an event of this magnitude and to make it as safe and fair as is humanly possible for every contestant who qualified to be here. Can you say #AllForRodeo?
When the skies opened up and it downpoured with what the weather stations termed “monsoon moisture” and a “severe flood threat,” there was an immediate in-arena meeting. Days of ’47 President and CEO Dan Shaw, Days of ’47 GM Tommy Joe Lucia, WCRA President Bobby Mote and Days of ’47 lead official Jimmy Adams met in the mud in front of the bucking chutes, and assessed the situation. In addition to a 30-minute start delay due to lightning in close proximity to the stadium, they determined that the ground conditions were dangerous for barrel racers.
Mote called a meeting with the eight barrel racers scheduled to run Thursday night in perf three of the Days of ’47 semifinals in the rodeo secretary’s office. He gathered those girls—some of whom were contemplating turning out and others who planned to throttle back to a safe speed that was sure not to win anything—and offered them the option of running today instead. Some were speechless; others on the brink of happy tears. They said things like, “You would do that for us?” The unanimous sentiment was “Thank You!”
“My jaw literally dropped in astonishment and I almost teared up from gratitude,” said Wyoming barrel racing ballerina Maggie Poloncic. “I couldn’t say the words ‘Thank You’ enough. This is one of the many reasons you’ll find me at all of the WCRA events. They advocate for us as competitors and for our horses as athletes.”
As four-time World Champion Bareback Rider Mote—whose wife, Kate, and daughter, Laura, are barrel racers—noted, the barrel race is by far the most risky in such conditions.
“We will always look out for the contestant and animal athletes in every event, but those barrel horses are running as fast as they can then turning three times,” he said. “All eight girls needed to agree to being moved to today or we’d have had to run them last night. It was very fortunate that they all either didn’t have somewhere else to be today or decided to make this rodeo their top priority.
“Even before the storm, Tommy Joe had looked at the results from years past and determined that people weren’t winning at the bottom of the ground here. So he implemented some very contestant friendly new policies here this year, including a tractor drag before the start of the barrel race, a tractor drag after the first four girls run and hand-raking after every run. This Days of ’47 crew truly cares about these contestants, and wants to make sure this rodeo is as safe and fair as possible, so that every athlete who qualified to be here has an equal shot at being successful.”
Lucia and Special T Tracks’ Randy Spraggins, a ground expert brought in by the Days of ’47 committee from Ohio, went to work on the ground conditions at sunrise this morning and are sparing no expense in terms of cost or effort.
“We had about three inches of water on the arena floor,” Lucia said. “We drained the water, and have been hauling in hydrated lime, which causes a chemical reaction to burn the water out of the dirt. We shoved all the mud into piles. Now we’re working each pile with lime to get it to be consistent.
“Once we get the ground in piles the way we want it, we’ll rework it and have it ready for the eight barrel racers from last night to run at 3 p.m. today. I predict the ground will be pretty close to perfect for those girls this afternoon and also tonight. It’s very important to us that everyone here has a fair chance to win, and we are getting it done.”