COARSEGOLD — The Coarsegold Rodeo Association (CRA) has announced that it will no longer produce the Coarsegold Rodeo, held traditionally the first weekend of May. Meanwhile, owners of the Coarsegold Rodeo Grounds and others are working to organize a replacement rodeo, even as the newly-restructured CRA plans a three-day event in Coarsegold during the same time period.
A press release from the CRA was distributed on Tuesday, Jan. 31:
“The Coarsegold Rodeo Association (CRA) … will not produce the May 2017 Coarsegold Rodeo. Traditionally, this rodeo is produced each year as a joint effort by the Coarsegold Rodeo Association, its Board of Directors, community nonprofit partners and numerous volunteers to benefit the children’s charities, grants and scholarships that the CRA supports.”
The announcement confirms that the CRA Board of Directors met in a special meeting on Monday, Jan. 30, and determined that it was “in the best interest of the community benefactors that the CRA devote its focus on a new venue to raise money for the grants and scholarships and that it is committed to continuing to share which aligns with its mission statement.”
The Coarsegold Rodeo Association is a tax-exempt 501(c)3 nonprofit organization subject to the rules and regulations of the Internal Revenue Service. The CRA was established in 2010, according to treasurer Pat Strimling, who is also the long-time volunteer leader of the Coarsegold 4-H.
According to their press release, the CRA donated over $4,550 in grants and scholarships in 2016, to school and community organizations serving local youth.
“Our true mission has always been to help the youth of Eastern Madera County and we continued to be committed to the cause,” wrote board member-at-large Karl Hussey in a letter explaining the future plans of the CRA. “We are just changing our direction this year.”
Instead of the rodeo at the Coarsegold Rodeo Grounds on the first weekend of May, the CRA is in the early stages of planning an event for the same time at a new location, say organizers. The Coarsegold Historic Village has been contracted as the venue for a three-day festival, says the CRA treasurer, adding that it’s their intent to produce an event that doesn’t take away from the rodeo but, rather, enhances it.
Coarsegold Rodeo Grounds owners, father-son team Kevin and Tanner Tweed, say they were surprised at the news the CRA would not produce the rodeo this year.
“We were saddened to hear today of Coarsegold Rodeo Association’s decision not to produce the CCPRA Coarsegold Rodeo in May,” the Tweeds stated in a social media post on Tuesday night. Last September, their location was the site of a new, PRCA-sanctioned event dubbed he Coarsegold Stampede Pro Rodeo.
“Our sincere gratitude to everyone on their committee who have worked tirelessly over the years to produce this Coarsegold tradition,” the post continued. “We at the Coarsegold Rodeo Grounds and the PRCA Coarsegold Stampede Pro Rodeo will do our best to find a replacement committee to produce another rodeo similar to the Coarsegold Rodeo around that same time period.”
Notably, Coarsegold Stampede Pro Rodeo will be held again this year, on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 16-17.
A little more dust was kicked up last night when CRA president JoAnn Swallow resigned her post in the wake of the Board’s decision to discontinue the rodeo. JoAnn says the reason for her resignation has to do with the direction the CRA is heading, and that she originally accepted the position in order to produce a rodeo. Since that isn’t happening, JoAnn says she respectfully declines to continue working on the CRA’s new plans.
Also last night, the website for the Coarsegold Rodeo Association was changed to reflect the additional words, “New Direction.”
The rodeo grounds were purchased from Tom Bohna early last year by Pavilion Properties, aka the Tweeds, who allowed the Coarsegold Rodeo to use the venue at no charge then, so that any proceeds from the event could go toward building momentum for the future.
As the Coarsegold Rodeo wrapped up last year, having taken place over three days from Friday, Apr. 30 through Sunday, May 2, the event appeared to have been a success, although personality conflicts were apparently becoming more heated as the days moved into summer.
CRA President Jill Satterfield, who had taken over in 2014 following the presidency of Susanne Waite, resigned in the midst of a contentious meeting in July. By that time, Jill had overseen three rodeos.
Jill says she resigned the post because the Board could not agree on the way things were to be done or in what direction the organization should proceed.
Immediately following Jill’s resignation, a new Board was put in place, and within the time period of that same meeting, the new Board also reportedly resigned. That’s when JoAnn stepped up to head what she thought was going to be a rodeo committee.
The conflicts appear to stem from concerns over finances and other legalities that come along with nonprofit status.
One source says that the Board had not filed the appropriate paperwork with the IRS for five years by 2016, and that the nonprofit status of the organization had been revoked for about two years. The nonprofit status was reportedly reinstated last year, after the May rodeo, following the payment of a relatively small penalty for failing to file, and a very large bill for a Certified Public Accountant to get the books in order for the IRS review and subsequent reinstatement. The total amount spent to rectify the situation is said to be about $6,500.
In addition to what is reported as a clash of management style, along with some hurt feelings, now at issue are the disposition of funds the CRA has accumulated in the course of producing the rodeo. Since the CRA has no plans to disband, whatever funds are currently in the bank will stay with the organization as it produces its next event. According to multiple sources, the CRA account holds about $30,000.
It takes between $18,000 to $20,000 to hire a stock contractor to run the rodeo, say sources. The contractor is responsible for duties that include signing up the cowboys and cowgirls, bringing in the rough stock of bulls, broncs and calves, and paying out to the winners.
In the past, it has been the responsibility of the CRA to hire the contractor, and arrange for vendors, sponsors, infrastructure including the PA system, and to pay for the grounds.
While last year there was no charge for the Coarsegold Rodeo Grounds venue, it was looking like a different story this year, says Pat. The Tweeds asked for a 50 percent increase in the $5,000 fee that had been paid to the Bohnas in prior years, instead requesting a sum of $7,500 in order for the CRA to secure the location. Pat says part of the reason the CRA has declined to put on the rodeo this year is that the committee would rather produce an event that costs less money and, ideally, garners the same kind of profit that the rodeo would.
Now, the Tweeds and other members of the Stampede Committee are scrambling to put on a rodeo without the seed-money of the CRA.
Kevin Tweed is in contact with the rodeo’s stock contractor, Chuck Morris of Rockin’ M Rodeo Productions, as well as announcer Ted Dwyer, “to see what we can do to save the rodeo.” Kevin also plans to be in touch with the California Cowboys Professional Rodeo Association (CCPRA) about the process of changing committees and getting sanctioned.
Currently, the CRA Board of Directors is being reworked, says treasurer Pat Strimling, and no new president has been appointed as of this afternoon. Grants are available to children in the community, and plans are underway for a new “heritage-days” style event the first weekend in May, while the fate of the traditional, local rodeo in Coarsegold remains uncertain, but hopeful.
Update, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017:
Coarsegold Rodeo Grounds: “This community continues to amaze me. The outpouring of support we have recieved within the last 24 hours of the announcement of the Coarsegold Rodeo Association canceling the Coarsegold Rodeo is so heartwarming. We have been inundated with calls from residents offering their time to commit to save the rodeo. This only reinforces our strong desire to continue this great tradition. Coarsegold Rodeo Grounds has decided to form a committee to host and produce the CCPRA Coarsegold Rodeo on May 6-7, 2017. Anyone interested in being a committee member, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact information. Again we would like to thank everyone on the Coarsegold Rodeo Association, the Bohna family and everyone in the past who have dedicated their time and money to help preserve this western family way of life.”