Following weeks of speculation, the Old Fort Days Rodeo has now officially been rescheduled.
The annual event held in Harper Stadium at Kay Rodgers Park, now in its 87th year, has been pushed back from its traditional Memorial Day start. It will now take place the week of June 22-27.
OFD officials were still debating as recently as this week whether to have the event as scheduled or postpone it in light of the coronavirus pandemic. But on Wednesday, they decided to go ahead and officially move it back to June.
Denny Flynn, the executive director of Kay Rodgers Park, also noted that the rodeo's scheduled new dates are dependent on what Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson determines as far as when to hold gatherings and events in front of large crowds.
"We’ve got the option and it depends on how this goes; we’re going to look at it again the first of June and we’re hoping that (Hutchinson) will open it up to 100 percent crowds by the end of June," Flynn said. "And he may not, you know.
"But our plan right now is to have it the last week of June."
Flynn added the rescheduled dates were the only ones possible in order to secure the various personnel needed to conduct a rodeo, including stock contractors and announcers.
"That was the only time, because there’s other rodeos that are going to open back up and stuff, and it’s hard to get everybody that you want," Flynn said. "We’re going to hope that the governor will open it up and if he doesn’t, then we’ll have to do something else. ... Whatever the restrictions are, we’ll have to look at all of that and follow all the guidelines.
"We want everybody to be safe."
Flynn, a legendary champion bull rider, does hope the OFD will go on for another reason.
"Most of those pro guys (rodeo competitors), that’s what they do for a living," he said. "They don’t have a job, so if they can’t go to a rodeo, then they’re out of work, so they’re really wanting to get this thing kicked back up so they can go back to the rodeos and make enough money to make the NFR (National Finals Rodeo) at the end of the year."
As far as whether to start the rodeo on Memorial Day, Flynn remarked it was still a possibility as of several days ago.
"There was up until (Hutchinson) came out (at a recent press briefing) and said you could only have 50 people in there through May," Flynn said. "We were just sitting there waiting on the week-to-week announcements that he does.
"But we had to tell the people, all of the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association), the cowboys; the books were fixing to close on the rodeo this week, so they didn’t know whether to enter or not enter, so we had to make a decision and that’s when we postponed to the 22nd through the 27th of June."
Flynn also announced the annual Old Fort Days Futurity and Derby races, held the week before the OFD, has a new date as well. Those will now take place July 27 through Aug. 1 at Harper Stadium.
With both the OFD and Futurity being held during the summer months, there is the possibility those events could be held under extremely high temperatures.
"It will be a little hotter, and that’s why we wanted to go ahead and move the rodeo as close as we could, because I think with that many people in the stands, it will be a little hotter in there in July and August," Flynn said. "If we had to do that, we would just call it off until next year.
"And we would have liked to have done it a little earlier in June, but you just can’t get the dates."