As the Cody Nite Rodeo Finals were winding down there was a timeout at Stampede Park.
Most members of the Cody Stampede board of directors gathered on the dirt to make a special presentation to Maury and Nikki Tate and their Mo Betta Rodeo Company.
The gift was a Henry rifle. Mike Darby, copresident of the Stampede board, said a few words, too.
“We’d like to honor the Tates,” he said, speaking of their 15 years as a stock contractor.
The acknowledgement, he said, was on behalf of the board, the community and Park County.
No bullets were included with the gun.
This would have been an unimaginable scene last December or January, when another faction of the board wanted to oust Mo Betta of Apache, Okla., from its role, bring in a new contractor to alter the 81-year-old rodeo.
During this presentation there were even some jokes made about the lack of bullets, or a firing squad, an illustration of how tensions have eased.
Following the great board blow-up last winter, resignations of several members, internal fighting, an embarrassing racially tinged incident, and insults directed at the Tate family, rodeo matters bottomed out.
Then new members were appointed, apologies made and the summer rodeo season unfolded as a grand success, not only with the 100th anniversary celebration of the Stampede, but the June-August Cody Nite Rodeo season.
“It’s just a well-oiled machine,” said Darby. “A great year. It was one of the most amazing, well-run operations that I’ve seen. Everyone seemed extremely happy. It’s one we’re going to look back on with fond memories.”
Cody is the Rodeo Capital of the World at least as much because of the Nite Rodeo as much as for the Stampede. As much a showpiece as the Stampede is, attracting the best talent in the world with its $400,000 purse, there are other week-long, major events. No one else in the world has rodeo every night of the summer.
Maury Tate said the season “was awesome.” One reason why, he said, was 1,300-plus different entrants.
“We had a record number of contestants,” Tate said.
From bareback riders to breakaway ropers, from barrel racers to bull riders, cowboys and cowgirls appeared from all over, for a day, days, weeks or the entire season. That number barely seems possible, but those one-night stands do add up.
“From Florida to Washington, from Canada to Australia,” Tate said of the rotating cast of characters.
“The potential for growth is huge.”
One aspect that has changed in Cody Nite Rodeo over the last two seasons, more so this year, has been a proliferation of clinics and free instruction provided through the cooperation of the Nite Rodeo and the PRCA.
Former world champions and current college coaches flocked to Cody, and at no cost to the athletes provided critiques, pointers and individual attention. As those participants disperse to their schools or on the circuit, the word-of-mouth value of their recommendations can be incalculable.
Just about every night in July and August, attendance seemed high. Not that there were sellouts – that is reserved for the height of the Stampede – but the Buzzards Roost seemed full almost every night.
However, June’s cold and dampness probably hindered the overall total and it turned out to be only very close to the same as 2018, down from 83,448 to 82,587.
“It was a great year,” Maury Tate said.
Marc Thompson, Stampede board co-president echoed both Darby and Tate with his analysis of the season.
After the early-in-year hassles and upheaval, 2019 turned into a notable season. Considerable attention was paid to the anniversary celebrations for the Stampede. Then the Stampede Rodeo and its board, in a proud achievement, was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs in August.
“It was an amazing year,” Thompson said on the final night of the Cody Nite Rodeo Finals. “Mo Betta rodeo did a fantastic job, as they have for their 15 years.”
And apparently will have the chance to duplicate management for some time. The board and Mo Betta have been negotiating a multi-year contract.