The Gilbert Days Rodeo is off again, at least as a full-fledged competition.
The event was scheduled for Nov. 18-20 in Apache Junction, but the Gilbert Days parade has been slated for the same weekend to allow the town’s high-school bands to participate. The Gilbert Promotional Corporation lacks the manpower to stage two concurrent events so far apart, said Chelle Bullard, president of the nonprofit organization.
As a result, the parade will proceed on Nov. 19, with a limited rodeo event tentatively planned in the town’s Heritage District.
“We planned our parade and rodeo on separate weekends, but our community wants the marching bands to be involved,” Bullard said. “We exist to serve the community, and we were encouraged to make it work so the bands could participate in the parade. We racked our brains to come up with a plan for both, but we just can’t spread ourselves that thin.”
The parade had a tentative date of Nov. 5, but competitions scheduled on that weekend and the following weekend would preclude the bands from taking part. And the town is loathe to having the parade, the biggest attraction of the annual Gilbert Days, on Thanksgiving weekend.
The bands missed last year’s parade due to a competition.
“We had gotten some negative feedback on that,” Bullard said. “If the events were on different days, that would not have been a challenge for us, but the bands would not have been able to be there.”
Changing the date of the rodeo was not an option. Most of the top International Professional Rodeo Association riders are committed to other events in November.
The Gilbert Days Rodeo had been staged at Gilbert Rodeo Park. But due to water-retention remediation costs of as much as $4 million, Gilbert opted not to renew its lease there in November. Maricopa County had leased the 47-acre former landfill site to the town since 1982.
The Apache Junction Rodeo Park Events Center was tabbed as the site for this year’s rodeo, which the GPC would have operated in conjunction with the Superstition Mountain Promotional Corporation of Apache Junction.
Bullard said Gilbert has given “a soft OK” to the smaller event, at a temporary facility on the southeast corner of Gilbert and Elliot roads. It would be called the Gilbert Days Rodeo, but be limited to bull riding.
“We don’t have the logistics in Gilbert to house all of the horses and contestants in an arena, then provide parking to go with it,” Bullard said. “It will still have the feel of rodeo and a Wild West theme, but it would not be a full rodeo event.”
Bullard said that the GPC still hopes to conduct a team-roping and barrel-racing event in Apache Junction, but talks are ongoing.
Gilbert is proceeding on a parks master plan that could include a new equestrian center. But those plans have yet to be finalized, and they will take time and money to implement.
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