By Rich Place
It’s almost time for the rodeo to come into town for the 30th consecutive year on Sommerville Valley Road just south of the village of Ellicottville.
The Ellicottville Championship Rodeo is scheduled to take place right after the July 4 holiday, with four shows scheduled from July 5 to 8. Fireworks are scheduled for the three evening shows, which begin at 7 p.m. July 5 to 7. A fourth afternoon show is scheduled for 2 p.m. July 8.
“There are 10 events at each rodeo,” explained John Kent, who has owned and operated the rodeo alongside his wife, Karen, for the rodeo’s three decades. “We offer the same events each day but it’s different cowboys competing.”
As surely as summer arrives each June and everyone prepares for the Independence Day holiday, Kent anticipates opening up his property for thousands to visit the rodeo, which is one of the largest International Professional Rodeo Association- (IPRA) and American Professional Rodeo Association (APRA)-sanctioned rodeos in the northeast.
“Let me tell you, we get cowboys in here from all over the place — all parts of the world,” he said, noting they’ve had cowboys come in from Australia, all corners of the country and throughout New York state and Canada.
Kent said preparations for the rodeo — which has always taken place near the July 4 holiday — often begins in March, when they purchase everything from T-shirts to advertisements and get sponsorships together. There’s also permits and insurance forms to complete.
“She does the paperwork end of it,” Kent said about his wife, Karen. “I do the grunt work,”
Advertising is essentially up by the beginning of June, which not only promotes the event in a roughly 70-mile radius but also gives ample time for the public to notice the rodeo’s four sponsors: Pioneer Propane, Tim & Bonnie’s Pizza, Domestic Energy and Bobcat of Olean’s Twin Tiers Outerwear.
As Kent walked around his property last week, the bleachers and stands on the hillside sat quiet, overlooking what resembled a lawn more than a rodeo arena. This was right before the arena was installed and the small field would be turned something suitable for the hundreds of cowboys that’ll show up next week.
The July 4 timing is perfect for the Ellicottville Championship Rodeo, as Kent said it’s in the midst of what is known in the industry as “Cowboy Christmas” when the rodeo season is busiest in late June and early July.
“Those boys have jobs but they save their vacation time or whatever time they can save,” Kent said about the cowboys. “If they live far away, they might leave on a Wednesday night to come here and they’ll hit (multiple) rodeos, or they’ll start here and work their way back.”
Returning again this year is cattle penning, Kent said. There’s also more trick riders to celebrate the rodeo’s 30 years.
As part of the rodeo tradition, the Ellicottville Championship Rodeo will feature a clown as well. There’s also a kid’s stick horse rodeo for children 10 and under. Gates open two hours before the show begins to allow guests time to come and enjoy the food as well as craft vendors set up near the arena.
Adult tickets for those ages 13 and up are $20 at the gate. Tickets for children 12 and under are $12 and children five and under are admitted free.
For more information on the Ellicottville Championship Rodeo, visit ellicottvillerodeo.com.