Stockton Rodeo Hogtied

A rodeo organizer in Stockton, Calif., talked a big game but, in the end, it was big hat, no cattle.

Stockton Rodeo Association CEO Bryan Bjork, a former rodeo cowboy and first-time rodeo organizer, got Stockton all riled up for a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event, even putting a cowboy hat on Mayor Ed Chavez at a press conference and hiring a cowboy and cowgirl to ride on horseback and fire pistols in the air.

“He certainly got the city to rally around him,” PRCA spokesman Jim Bainbridge told the Stockton Record. “It seemed like a legitimate thing.”

But in the end, organizers of the inaugural Stockton Rodeo, which was to offer $500,000 in prize money and concerts by Montgomery Gentry, John Rich and others, canceled the event because sponsorship funding wasn’t secured.

The event, scheduled to run September 26 to October 4 at the 10,000-capacity Stockton Arena, was canceled just a few months after the June press conference.

Bjork announced the rodeo would be sanctioned by the PRCA and its hefty purse would make it one of the largest in the nation. The event was also to be a stop on the Professional Bull Riders tour, according to the Record.

However, that plan started to unravel as the arrangements progressed.

The PRCA pulled out reportedly because Bjork didn’t meet the deadline to put the prize money into an escrow account to ensure the competitors would be paid.

“They had a deadline. It was extended. And they just couldn’t come up with the money,” Bainbridge told the paper.
Then Jay Daugherty, VP of event tours for the PBR, said the rodeo’s initial advertisement that it would be a stop on PBR’s tour wasn’t true.

Bjork told the Record there was a disagreement with the PRCA about financing, but that organizers decided to switch affiliation to the International Professional Rodeo Association “independently of that” and still offer the $500,000 prize money. He also claimed he had gotten permission from Daugherty to promote the PBR stop.

The event was expected to draw about 120,000 over the nine-day period.

The city, which pitched in $75,000 to sponsor the event, is expected to ask for its money back and discuss sponsorship again next year, the Record said.

Rodeo legend Cotton Rosser, 80, who appeared at the June press conference, told the paper before the cancellation he was concerned the event would fail.

“Somebody told me the city paid him $75,000. Well, he’s a good promoter – and a pretty gullible city, is all I can tell you,” Rosser was quoted as saying. “But in all fairness, that was as good a press party as I’ve been to. … He did the job up right. So he might be successful. I may have it all wrong.

“He gave ‘em all hats, you know,” Rosser added.

A statement from director Dave Arnone posted on the rodeo’s Web site said plans to host it next year are in the works.

“This was a very ambitious plan for our first rodeo and we feel that we need more time to coordinate the many details that will make this rodeo spectacular,” Arnone said in the statement. “We really appreciate the support of the sponsors and hope to retain them for next year and return even more value to them.”

The statement also said full refunds would be given at point of purchase.