It is not true that Cody Nite Rodeo will add a new swimming event for the 2019 season.
However, just days before the June 1-Aug. 31 season was set to begin at Stampede Park, swamp-like conditions made it seem as if the prospect was possible.
The park and the dirt arena featured several spots that were under water or were muddy due to the recent heavy rains.
One of the highlights of the year will be opening night, which since it is also the first Saturday of the season will also serve as Park County Night. Residents of the county will be admitted for $5.25. That includes tax.
A change in the weather, promised to reach as high as 70-degree temperatures, with even the threat of sunshine, could be a great aid for kick-starting the campaign normally.
Maury Tate and his Mo Betta Rodeo of Apache, Okla., will be the stock contractor for a 15th season.
“I think it’s going to be a fun year and a good year,” Tate said.
Something completely different will be part of the Cody Nite experience, as well as at other rodeos and events around the state.
WyoLotto announced it will oversee a new game called Ragtime Raffle between June 9 and July 27, or until 100,000 tickets are sold – at Cody Nite Rodeo, Cheyenne Frontier Days, the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, at Evanston’s Wyoming Downs and Laramie’s Jubilee Days.
Tickets are $20 each, with the total prize money exceeding $1 million. There will be a grand prize of $750,000, as well as three $75,000 prizes and five $5,000 prizes. While Wyo Lotto retailers will sell tickets for the special game, at times personnel will be on location at the events.
“We think it pairs well with rodeos and rodeo culture,” said a WyoLotto spokesman.
As far as Cody Nite activities aside from the tie-in with the lottery, junior bull riding will again be part of the program, possibly on Wednesdays and Saturdays, Tate said, though that remains to be finalized.
Experimenting with instruction by former Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association stars last year was a hit, Tate said, and the opportunities will be repeated throughout the season this year.
These programs are aimed at helping young cowboys develop their skills, especially in bull riding and horse bucking events.
“We’ve got kids coming from all over,” Tate said, referring to those in their late teens and early 20s as kids.
He already knows of young competitors coming from Australia, Pennsylvania and Alabama to learn.
Some of the instructors include longtime bareback rider Heath Ford, who led schools in Cody last year, Hall of Fame bull rider Cody Custer, two-time Professional Bull Riders champion Justin McBride and bullfighter Nate Jestes, who is from Douglas and has competed in Bullfighters Only in Cody over the July 4 holiday week.
Tate believes the program is good for rodeo in general.
“I think the more kids who come through here and have success, the better it is,” he said. “Any kid who is serious about rodeo can improve. It can help grow the sport. It brings us kids that want to get better and it makes the rodeo better.”
For his personal fans, it should be noted that Mongo, the gentle bull that stands near the grounds’ front entrance and poses for pictures with spectators, is also back.
Over the last several years the Cody Stampede has built a relationship with RFD-TV with a once-a-year post-event show.
Mike Darby, co-president of the Stampede Board, said Cody rodeo’s connection with television is slated to expand this summer.
In addition to the usual Stampede show, RFD will film a show related to the Cody Nite Rodeo instructional schools, Darby said.
Also, The Cowboy Channel, a pay-TV service connected with RFD, will develop two more as-yet-to-be-determined shows from Cody.
The livestock was rolling into Stampede Park earlier this week despite the rain and cowboys were busy mornings feeding the animals.
Phil “Pop” Bates, the veteran Cody hand, was decked out in a black cowboy hat and a yellow slicker trying to do the impossible by dodging raindrops.
“I haven’t seen it like this in years,” Bates said of May’s rainfall.
Except for Park County Night, individual adult tickets for Cody Nite Rodeo cost $21, though a season pass is $60. Children six-and-under are free and tickets for those aged 7-12 cost $10.50.
For a time during the offseason, it appeared this would be the final season for Mo Betta as stock contractor. Internal disputes on the board of directors appeared to be leading to a new contractor taking over in 2020.
Conflicts within the board’s makeup, however, led to multiple resignations and a commitment to sign Mo Betta to a three-year renewal.
That has not occurred yet though. Darby said the board’s time has been devoured during the first months of 2019 by planning for this July 4 week’s 100th anniversary celebration of the Stampede.
“We’ll make sure Maury gets here,” Darby said.
Tate said he is not worried about any delay.
“We’re not extended yet,” he said. “We know that they’re busy. They were saying a three-year contract.”