Rainy rodeo prompts re-think

Published 2:05 am Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Organizers to consider different dates

Rains for the fourth out of the last five years on Rattlesnake Rodeo weekend are prompting rodeo officials to think a different timeframe.

“We are going to sit down and talk about it and find a date that maybe we won’t have rain,” Opp Mayor John Bartholomew said. “We hope to have that in place for the next four years.”

Heavy rains on Friday delayed rodeo officials from setting up the rodeo on time.

Country music’s Sammy Kershaw took the stage and performed, but lightning prevented Aaron Tippin and John Anderson from performing.

The decision for them not to play sparked outrage on the Rattlesnake Rodeo Facebook page.

Bartholomew said he did want to clarify some things, however.

“After reading some of the negative things said about the Friday event, I just want to clarify some things,” he said. “The Rattlesnake Rodeo is not an event that is thrown together in a few days, or even a few weeks. Our committee works on the rodeo all year long. It also works like a small army. We have many people who have put in many hours of hard work in getting vendors signed up, organizing volunteers, security, ticket sales, advertising and so much more.”

Bartholomew said when the thunderstorm rolled in Friday night and the decision was made to cancel, it was not a decision that was made lightly.

“Aaron Tippin has been struck by lightning twice,” Bartholomew said. “The artists call whether or not they play. It’s not my call. They made the call and I had to respect it. I and the committee understands the frustration felt by so many of you over the cancellation,” he said. “And I truly wish we could have had Mr. Tippin and Mr. Anderson spend the night and play on Saturday, but they were already booked elsewhere and they had to leave Opp Friday night in order to make their next performance.”

Bartholomew said that a thunderstorm also posed a safety threat to the public.

“What would have happened if lightning had struck the stadium?” he said. “How many people could have possibly died from that? Howe many could have been injured from that? When it comes to choosing between putting people in danger or canceling for safety concerns, I’m going to choose safety.”

Rattlesnake Rodeo officials have long had a policy in which there are no refunds and no rain checks.

But an upset crowd prompted Bartholomew to make an exception to the policy.

“I felt bad that they didn’t get to see the concerts on Friday,” he said. “I wanted them to be able to experience the rodeo and see our vendors. It was very unfortunate with the rain, but we have no control over when it rains.”

Bartholomew said he did have rain insurance and it rained enough for the insurance to pay.

Friday night may have called, Saturday painted a very different picture.

“While Friday, the weather was less than ideal, on Saturday, the sun returned and I believe that the artists put on an excellent show for us,” he said.

“We did quite well on Saturday,” Bartholomew said. “It was very successful. At 7 p.m., we still had people coming in. Chris Tomlin was all everyone was talking about. He was great and he was very humbled.”

Last year, Christian performers Newsboys, Finding Favour, John Tibbs and Audio Adrenaline had the crowd on its feel in the rain.

The crowd wound up soaked by the end of the concert.

In 2013, rain fell during the rodeo, but wasn’t enough to warrant an insurance claim.

A tornado warning in 2012 prompted officials to evacuate the stadium.

“The Rattlesnake Rodeo belongs to Opp and while it is a far from perfect event, it is ours,” Bartholomew said. “Thank you again for taking part.”