Coyote Country Rodeo, Inc. plans fund raising dance for rodeo grounds restoration by M. Jill Karolevitz The rodeo grounds at Clay County Park are getting a new lease on life with the help of an agreement between the Clay County Park Board and Coyote Country Rodeo, Inc.
Coyote Country Rodeo members are now working to restore the facilities, which will be used for the organization�s annual Bull-a-rama event, along with other activities such as team penning, roping and barrel racing.
�Late last summer we approached the board about using the rodeo grounds,� said Scott Hanson, a member of Coyote Country Rodeo, Inc. �The board agreed to purchase a steel arena and we�re providing the labor to install it.�
Coyote Country Rodeo Inc. will also be in charge of scheduling events at the rodeo grounds.
�We have not given up our ownership status,� said Bill Willroth Sr., Clay County Park Board vice president. �But Coyote Country Rodeo will be the ones who schedule events and provide maintenance. The grounds are also no longer open to the public as they have been in the past. If someone wants to use them, they�ll have to get in touch with the Coyote Country Rodeo members.�
Although it has fallen into disrepair of late, the rodeo arena at Clay County Park was used extensively 30 years ago.
�The University of South Dakota used to have a very active rodeo club and used it for years,� Hanson said. �The rodeo grounds used to be across the street from Burger King, where the dorms are now. Then the facility was built at the park. The National College Finals Rodeo was held there in 1969 and other events included annual Little Britches and amateur rodeos.�
The new steel arena was purchased from Bob McKay of O�Neill, NE, the stock contractor who provides bulls for Coyote Country Rodeo�s Bull-a-rama. It measures 100' x 200', with 6-foot high panels. The arena includes chutes and holding pens needed for various rodeo events.
With the open winter, Coyote Country Rodeo members have been able to complete some of the preparatory work necessary prior to the installation of the new arena. The woven wire fence and wooden holding pens have been removed and brush has been burned away. Plumbing and electrical work for a speaker system and lighting will take place as the weather improves. Coyote Country Rodeo members have targeted mid-June as the completion date for installation of the arena.
�We hope to have everything ready for operation by July 31,� Hanson said. �It will take a lot of work to get everything going again, but as an organization, we felt this was a good opportunity to provide a place for rodeo events, such as roping, team penning or barrel racing in addition to the Bull-a-rama. We hope to schedule three to five events a year, at least for starters.�
Andy Howe, Coyote Country Rodeo treasurer, foresees a bright future for the rodeo grounds, but has a realistic view when it comes to the expenses that will be involved in the restoration project. A Valentine�s dance and auction, set Feb. 12 at the Eagle�s Club in Vermillion, will be one special event that will help raise funds as the organization continues its work.
�Proceeds from the dance will be used to help with ?odds and ends� expenses that may pop up on us as we put in the new arena,� Hanson said.
East River Cowboys will provide music for the dance, which runs from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Tickets are $4 for one person, $6 for couples. During band breaks, items will be auctioned off, including a bronze sculpture by artist Ray Kelly, a round-trip airline ticket to anywhere in the lower 48 states and a whirlpool suite at the Comfort Inn. Coyote Country Rodeo members will also sell carnations at the door.