SHERIDAN — The Sheridan WYO Rodeo Board of Directors sold just less than 25,000 tickets last week — roughly 98% of available tickets, according to Rodeo Board President Billy Craft.
A total of 24,396 tickets were sold for the four-day event, Craft said. Friday and Saturday’s rodeos were completely sold out with roughly 6,200 tickets each, Craft said, while 96% of available tickets were sold Wednesday and 97% of available tickets were sold Thursday.
Craft said due to bad bookkeeping, the board doesn’t have accurate reports of ticket sales from the 2018 and 2019 rodeos, but he expects 2021 saw a “significant increase” in ticket sales.
The press previously reported the 2019 edition of the rodeo saw 21,900 in attendance. In 2018, the WYO recorded attendance at 23,529.
Nearly all of this year’s tickets were sold prior to Rodeo Week, with the Friday and Saturday events selling out seven weeks before rodeo began, Craft said.
Sheridan County Travel and Tourism Executive Director Shawn Parker said anticipation for the rodeo had built to a fever pitch after a two-year hiatus related to the COVID-19 pandemic. That anticipation translated to major ticket sales.
“Having two years to plan and discuss this year’s rodeo certainly generated interest, and I think people were just excited to get out and about,” Parker said.
Many local businesses rode the wave of excitement to extremely strong sales weeks, according to Craft.
“The feedback we’re getting from the merchants and the restaurants is that this has been one of the best weeks in their histories,” Craft said. “It was fantastic, that’s all I can say. It did what it was supposed to do, which was bring the money to town.”
Sheridan Chamber of Commerce CEO Dixie Johnson agreed.
“Generally, what I’ve been hearing is the businesses on and off Main Street had a lot of people, and that’s good even if they didn’t buy anything right at that time,” Johnson said. “Local businesses saw a tremendous amount of support last week, which is great.”
One of the businesses benefitting from a rodeo bump was King’s Saddlery and King Ropes. While the business was steady throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Bruce King, Rodeo Week was unlike anything they had seen in a while.
“It was 10 times busier than usual,” King said. “People were excited to get out and about, and they were making up for lost time when it comes to spending. It was a shot in the arm for us and will keep us going.”
Parker said there were no recent numbers on what the rodeo means dollar-wise for the local economy. A study from a decade ago set that economic impact at $6 million, but with a decade’s worth of inflation, Parker suspects the impact may be closer to $10 million now.
“If it’s not our biggest event, it’s probably in the top two or three,” Parker said. “It doesn’t just impact traditional lodging and restaurants; every part of our economy sees a bump during Rodeo Week. We’re obviously thrilled it’s back.”
This year, the rodeo board paid out a total of $346,715 to contestants. The 2019 edition saw a total purse payout of $301,310, according to previous Sheridan Press reporting. In 2018, the WYO recorded a total of $314,776 in prize money.
Craft said that, from the purse to the attendance, this year’s rodeo was one to remember.
“We knew it was going to be good, but we were all pleasantly surprised by how good it was — from the attendance to the quality of the rodeo,” Craft said. “The livestock was ready to rock and roll, the cowboys and cowgirls were ready to compete and people were able to witness as good a rodeo as they could anywhere.”
Craft attributed the event’s success to the audience members who came out day after day to cheer on their favorite cowboys.
“The single most important entity is the people who buy the tickets,” Craft said. “Without them, there would be no sponsors, and there would be no competitors. We are able to put quality stuff in front of them because they buy tickets. I’m really thankful to them for coming out year after year.”
Editor's note: 7/26/21- This story has been updated with new ticket sales and payout numbers.