A proposal to bring a western rodeo to Madison was met with a lot of enthusiasm by the Jefferson County Board of Tourism (JCBT) at its meeting on Monday, but there were concerns over the possible date as Ellie Troutman and Tayler Rinehart asked the board to invest in the event.

The event, to be held in association with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, would be scheduled the same weekend as the 2022 Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art, set for Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 24-25. Action on the request was tabled until JCBT’s Dec. 20 meeting, but there was considerable support among the members despite the concern on whether Jefferson and surrounding counties have the capacity to handle both Chautauqua and rodeo crowds on the same weekend.

“It’s not just a rodeo, it’s a festival. It’s a big deal. If they can pull it off, I definitely think it’s a great program for us to do,” said JCBT member Todd Boone.

“This is exciting to us,” said Troutman, noting that Rinehart is married to a PRCA cowboy who also participates in the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA). “Tayler also raises bucking bulls that made it to the Canadian finals,” she said

Troutman herself was a horse trainer for 33 years and was involved with team ropers. “So we bring a lot of experience together along with my fund-raising ability,” said Troutman, noting she thinks “we can bring something epic” to the local community.

“It’s a social event, it’s a community event, it’s a sporting event which is always exciting, and it involves family and a lot of patriotism,” Troutman added,

Troutman said they were not just looking for a sponsor, but an investment partner “to help us grow this.” Initially, Troutman and Rinehart asked for $100,000 from JCBT, but Boone noted that would take most of the $120,000 the board has budgeted for community grants.

“It’s just like a budget for your house, you’re not going to spend all your money in the first month, and have nothing the rest of the year, so I would have a hard time to sign up and say I’ll give the whole budget for one event. But I do want to support it,” Boone said, noting he wants to be prudent in what the board can do.

Later in the meeting, Troutman countered with a $50,000 suggestion and the possibility of coming back later for any unrequested or unbudgeted funds.

Boone asked if a plan could be developed in which JCBT gets a small percentage of each admission sold for the event. “That puts more money back in to allow us to do more,” he said.

Commissioner David Bramer, president of the JCBT, said he could check with the county attorney to see if that might be feasible.

Troutman and Rinehart are owners of McWhiggins Wonder Emporium, and Boone noted they’ve proven themselves since the business opened two years ago at 220 West Main Steet. “We trust what you can do,” he said. “You’ve proven to us what you can do in this community.”

Troutman promoted the rodeo as an activity residents and visitors could enjoy in the evening during Chautauqua.

“We love Chautauqua,” she said. “It’s been a mainstay here for years and years. I am a shopper and a spender and a going-to-festivals kind of person. Once Chautauqua closes its doors at 5 p.m., there is very little we offer people to do” with the exception of music opportunities available at local business.

Troutman said they have contacted the Jefferson County Fair Board about reserving the fairgrounds, but that Chautauqua weekend is the only date that works based on the current PRCA schedule.

“Just because we don’t think our town can handle the capacity, I don’t think we say no,” said JCBT member Curtis Chatham.

“I love the event. I think it’s amazing what your wanting to do,” said Sarah Prasil, executive marketing director for Visit Madison Inc. “I just don’t want a negative visitor experience.”

VMI President Lucy Dattilo also expressed interest and concern. “We don’t have the capacity for two World Series the same weekend. What happens is it’s about the customer and the visitor experience,” she said. “I think this is a fantastic thing” but wondered if he rodeo could be moved to the weekend before Chautauqua.

Troutman said PRCA is unavailable that previous weekend in 2022, but that could be a possibility in the future.

“The sell is there. I can feel the energy and the buzz with what you guys are saying,” JCBT member Trevor Crafton said. “The issue I hear is the date and I think you could split it right down the middle. If people come in and everything is booked, then that could be a problem. However, when you tell people no, sometimes people want a little more, so I understand that philosophy as well.”

Crafton wondered about going ahead and scheduling on the same weekend as Chautauqua in 2022 with the expectation that with a positive outcome the date can be shifted so that “going forward it will not be at Chautauqua’s doorstep ... I would like to have it the weekend before Chautauqua. I think that would be a sweet spot.”

Another issue raised by Crafton is that beer is typically sold at rodeos, and several JCBT board members said they think alcohol sales are not allowed at the fairgrounds. Chatham actually communicated with a fair board member during the meeting who confirmed that alcohol sales are not allowed on fairgrounds.

Rinehart said that while beer is typically sold at the rodeo “it is not a breaking point” that would prevent the rodeo from taking place. However, Boone said lack of alcohol sale could impact the revenue brought in by the event.

Madison City Council member Jim Bartlett, who attended the meeting, said the prospect of the rodeo is exciting but that weekends without other events are hard to come by in Jefferson County.

“Some of the dates may be worrisome, but the reality is that there are so many things going on in Madison and Jefferson County, you’re not going to find an empty weekend,” Bartlett said. “So I don’t think we can let something that seems like a very solid opportunity go away because of the date for one year.”

Madison City Council member Katie Rampy, also in attendance, agreed, “It’s something new that hasn’t been tried before. We need new things for sure, so I’m pretty excited about the opportunity. Again, I’m also concerned about the weekend mix, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Prasil agreed that adding a rodeo could bring great opportunity. “When you have a new event, you can’t give it one year to decide if it worked,” Prasil said. “You have to give it three years at least, so maybe this is a way to tease people” by having it Chautauqua weekend in 2022, and continuing onto even greater things after that.

Board member Nancy Crisp said hotels are always seeking ways to put guests in their rooms on days when there are fewer activities to draw visitors. “They want things to put people in their rooms” on weekdays and the weekends when there aren’t events, she said.

As the meeting wound down, Dattilo noted, “Never in my wildest years — I’ve been involved in tourism for some shape or form for 20 years — I would ever think a major event would be placed on Chautauqua weekend. I’m trying to wrap my brain around it. I think it’s a great thing. It’s just the wrong date. We’re sold out (of hotel rooms) and we’re sold out two counties out.”

“There’s another piece here that you have to consider,” said Bartlett. “If the rodeo channel is carrying this event, then nationwide there’s marketing it’s going to give Madison and Jefferson County that this group would never venture into.”