Dungannon, ON – About five years ago, grower Kayla Bishop had an idea to bring an annual rodeo to her hometown and subsequently pitched the idea to Susan Cutting, an ag industry peer. As a rodeo enthusiast who had traveled the local circuit for years, Cutting jumped on the idea immediately.
Now, heading into its fourth year, the Dungannon Pro Rodeo draws in over 2,000 attendees each year.
“It brings people to the community who wouldn’t otherwise come here, it’s a big tourism boost. They come for the rodeo, but they eat at local vendors, support local businesses, and usually stick around for a while,” says Cutting, who is now the Rodeo Treasurer.
“It’s a pretty famous little event with 2,000 people coming out to Dungannon. The town itself only has about 200 residents.”
In order to attract attendees and competitors, the rodeo requires a pretty big advertising budget. Luckily, they received a $2,500 grant from the Bayer Fund’s Canada’s Farmers Grow Communities program (CFGC), thanks to Kayla Bishop’s nomination.
“We tend to use any grants or donations to help cover our advertising costs. It’s a unique crowd—not everyone wants to go to a rodeo 100-miles away. But those people do exist, and we want to be able to reach them. So advertising is something we focus a lot on. And based on our turnouts every year–our approach is working,” says Cutting.
It’s worked so well, in fact, that at the 2019 event, bull riders came in all the way from Mexico. Granted, the radio and newspaper advertisements didn’t reach them directly in their home country. But it’s likely that increased awareness and word-of-mouth advertising played a pivotal roll in getting a group of riders to drive over 3,500 kilometers to compete.
“Bull riders don’t have much equipment to transport. They don’t have a horse; they don’t need a truck or trailer. So, it’s actually pretty common for the riders to travel from town to town all summer,” explains Cutting.
The rodeo holds a special place in Bishop’s heart. She grew up on a family farm 15-minutes from Dungannon, and now works on her husband’s family’s cash crop operation. Bishop feels that it’s the small towns and communities that have the biggest hearts.
“It’s impressive what a small town can come up with. I grew up going to rodeos, and I felt that they were very deserving of both the nomination and the award,” she says.
“The grant has provided financial stability and will allow them to bring in more activities at the event. Things like petting zoos, meet and greets with the competitors, and family activities – all of them come at a cost to run.”
The rodeo sees between 200-300 competitors every year. Some other events include barrel racing, pole bending, steer wrestling, and roping. There’s a youth under 16 category and the adult category, where winners receive cash prizes.
Last year, event organizers began focusing on young families with children. Small towns have a reputation for having limited entertainment, and organizers felt it was important to appeal to a wider range of attendees.
“There aren’t many family-oriented events in this area,” says Bishop.
“It’s not uncommon for young families to move away to larger communities, where there are more options for entertainment and recreation. Events like the rodeo are important for small communities. It sends the message that, we may be a small town, but we can still have fun and meet the needs of young families,” she explains.
Upon receiving the news that they won the grant, Cutting immediately called to thank Bishop.
“You never think you’re going to win these things. We were so grateful to even be nominated. $2,500 goes a long way for a small community,” says Cutting.
The 2020 Dungannon Pro Rodeo is scheduled for the weekend of July 11-12. We have a inquiry in with rodeo organizers to confirm.