Molalla Buckeroo Rodeo alive and well, bright future a near certainty
Tim Anderson, the president of the Molalla Buckeroo Association, said there is no truth to the speculation that the annual rodeo is on shaky ground financially
This time of year, Tim Anderson, the president of the Molalla Buckeroo Association, spends much of this time -- too much -- trying to correct unfounded speculation and innuendo that swirls annually around the towns rodeo.
Anderson has lost count of how many times he has heard that the reason bulls buck the way they do is because theres a leather strap tied around their testicles.
That one is not true.
Then theres the one about how the Molalla Buckeroo Rodeo is on shaky ground financially and is on the verge of being added to the Endangered Rodeos List.
Also, not true.
Everybody hears the rumors every year, Oh, gosh, I dont know if theres going to be a Buckeroo next year, Anderson said. Where that comes from, I cant even guess.
Rodeos, in general, are struggling. Every year, the PRCA loses some rodeos. Some of it is for lack of sponsorship. Some of it is because of rules the PRCA implements and the fees that people have to pay to be a part of the PRCA. But theres nothing here to suggest that our future appears bleak.
Gauging by the turnout at Saturday nights kickoff party for the 91st Molalla Buckeroo Rodeo and by the ticket pre-sales for the July 2-5 rodeo, it looks as if Anderson and the other eight members of the associations executive board have their non-profit organization headed in the right direction.
There have been a few changes and upgrades to the rodeo grounds since last years Buckeroo. The all-volunteer association had hoped for more, but the improvements will be noticeable at Wednesdays 8 p.m. rodeo performance and beyond.
Other projects remain in the planning stages, including Andersons long-term goal to enclose the entire arena and erect a Buckeroo Events Center that could stage events year-round.
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission approved the Buckeroos request for an open alcohol venue, easing some of the restrictions on where alcohol can be served and consumed.
Rather than confine alcohol sales to one area near the southeast end of the arena, there are multiple bar locations throughout the grounds and patrons will be allowed to take their beverages into the seating arena for the first time.
The Buckeroo Association markets the rodeo as a family-oriented event and hopes that some of the sideshows such as the carnival rides, kids mutton busting, musical entertainment, and fireworks displays will help draw people from outside the typical rodeo demographics to Molalla.
My goal is I want to sell 10,000 tickets for every show, Anderson said. Of course, thats not realistic. Depending on when the Fourth of July falls, the closer to the weekend, the better. If its on a Wednesday, our ticket sales are always down.
This year with the Fourth being on a Friday, people have Friday off, so I think Thursday will be a good show, the Fourth is always full, and I actually think July 5 this year will be up. Usually the performance after the Fourth of July is down, but I think this year, because its a Saturday, it will be up.
Sponsorships and alcohol sales are essential for a rodeo that Anderson said cost us roughly $250,000 to $300,000 to put the show on.
Anderson said he had some apprehension about switching to an open alcohol venue, but when his research showed that other rodeos that had previously adopted similar policies saw an estimated 25 percent increase in alcohol sales, he said the potential boost in revenue was too attractive to ignore.
The last thing I want is a problem, said Anderson, whose goal is to sell $125,000 in alcohol concessions. I dont want families sitting here while theres a fistfight going on over there. The downside of that is I better sell 25 percent more, because Im spending 10 percent more to beef up security.
Its a kind of a knifes blade that youre walking, but Im hoping its another avenue to make it easier for people to have a good time.
Anderson, a 1990 graduate of Colton High School, first volunteered his services to the Buckeroo Association when he was in his mid-20s and helped patrol the parking areas on horseback.
That also was when the rodeo grounds were rarely used outside of the first week in July -- and the Buckeroo survived.
Today, that same business model would spell disaster.
Anderson credits former Buckeroo Association president Michelle Mills for leading the transition to a more modern, business-minded, social media-friendly operation.
Mills resigned as the Buckeroos president on Jan. 7, 2013 -- one day before pleading guilty to embezzling $350,000 from her employer, Abtronics, a Molalla electronics components distributor where she was a manager -- but her influence on the rodeo association still reverberates.
Michelle was an incredible asset, Anderson said. We had to change. It was change or parish. Michelle hard-charged on that and people are now starting to see three years later, gosh, that was a good idea we did that three years ago, because if we hadnt, wed be done.
The mentality when I first got on the executive board six years ago was, We need something? Were the Buckeroo. Lets just go buy it. It doesnt work that way. Weve had to re-evaluate a lot of things that we did and some of the partnerships that we had with people that werent as good as they seemed. You cant give me $5,000 and I give you back $6,000. Thats bad business.
Over the next three months, the Buckeroo Associations rodeo grounds will host a number of outside events, including a truck and tractor pull on July 12, the first of four junior rodeos on July 18-19, and a high school rodeo on Sept. 12-14.
There were a few years there when we started making some changes, and people hate change, especially some of the old-timers, Anderson said. Theyd be like, Thats just the way weve always done it.
Yeah, well, thats not good business. And the Buckeroo wasnt run as a business. But it absolutely is now. And it has to be, or it wont survive.
With the addition of Jack Daniel's as a corporate sponsor this year, Anderson said the Buckeroo Association is bringing in just as many sponsorship dollars as it ever has, if not more. The dollars do go as far as they once did, but thats no reason to think the the Buckeroo Association is in financial straits.
We have nothing but a long future ahead of us, Anderson said. The Buckeroo isnt going anywhere. Were not like, Oh, my gosh, if we dont sell X amount of tickets and X amount of booze, we arent going to be able to pay our bills. No, were actually doing very well.
Twenty-five years ago, there wasnt a big advertising push, because the association lived and died off of the community and the people that already knew the rodeo was here. That has changed a lot in the last 10 years. Now, people come to our event for the carnival and the music and the carni-food and the party atmosphere and the fireworks and, oh, yeah, theres a rodeo.