The difference may come down to money from the governor’s office.
Katy Day, whose son Ryder raised the Polled Hereford that won Grand Champion Steer last year, says families who haven’t been in the cattle business will hurt the most from the cancellation.
“I just don’t know how Fort Worth can justify putting their priorities on professional athletes and shutting the door on these youth,” Day said. “The World Series, the NFR, the professional rodeo athletes, I have nothing against them… I guess my fight’s for the kiddos. We just don’t have the lobbyists backing us or the financial enthusiasts backing us that can have the political influence to support these kiddos.”
The National Cutting Horse Association’s (NCHA) World Championship Futurity is on track to start November 19th. The National Reined Cow Horse Association’s (NRCHA) Snaffle Bit Futurity began two days ago and will last until the 24th in the Will Rogers Coliseum, adjacent to Dickies Arena where the rodeo had been venued. Both are cutting events, meaning they feature horses competing in cattle-running tasks.
Both events also receive funding from the state’s Event Trust Funds Program. The FWSSR does not.
The Event Trust Funds Program, meant to “assist Texas communities with paying costs related to preparing for or conducting an event,” allows cities or counties to share the budgetary burden of an event with the state. For every $6.25 that Texas gives for an event, the locals pay $1.
Through this program, the governor’s office put $473,143 towards funding last year’s NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity, whose final price tag was a little over $548,000 according to the program’s public database. A 2019 report shows that the state’s share of the $1.5 million price tag for the 2018 NCHA World Championship Futurity was $1,331,247.
Unlike these cutting events, the FWSSR receives no aid from the Event Trust Funds Program, leaving it more vulnerable to cancellation. Because the cuttings receive money from the governor’s office, sources inside the organizations say that their events depend less on ticket revenue and can therefore take the blow of reduced attendance. The rodeo needs more people in the seats to profit, and compliance with health protocols that slash attendance also saps crucial money from the rodeo’s overhead costs. This ticket money is less crucial for events that pull funds from the governor’s office.
The NRCHA made its way onto the list of events that draw subsidies from the Event Trust Funds Program when Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 2402 into law, against the protests from many of the house’s most conservative lawmakers and with the help of hired NRCHA-hired lobbyist and former Abbott aide Daniel Hodge. Hodge is also a lobbyist for the NCHA.
The FWSSR does list several other state agencies among its minor sponsors, such as the Texas Department of Agriculture. The rodeo’s primary sponsors are private corporations: Dickies, North Texas Chevy Dealers, Reliant, Texas Health Resources, and Simmons Bank.
Since many families of children who would have shown their animals spent substantial money on buying and feeding them, the FWSSR cancellation has left them high and dry.
“These projects are definitely financial investments as well… A lot of these kids purchase them, they’ve got to have them on feed by the end of June, and that’s a long time,” said Day, whose family has worked in production agriculture for generations and keeps part of their herd just for shows like the FWSSR.
“There’s a bit of hypocrisy. I hate to use that word, but the fact that there’s so many other events that are gonna be held in the metroplex, similar times with a big number of spectators. I wish that folks would put priorities on youth programs and the kids. They’re not professional athletes… They’re not looking to make a ridiculous amount of money. They’re looking to cash flow this project so they can afford to do it again next year.”
Day went on to note that the FWSSR doles out bigger payouts to winners than any other show in the state, meaning that first-timers and other competitors who lack the resources her own family has enjoyed are potentially losing more money.
Database numbers show that the governor’s office will funnel almost $220,000 of the $255,002 needed for the 2021 NRCHA Celebration of Champions.
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