Whether it’s the entertainment of watching the clown’s hilarious antics, the youth mutton bustin’, the bucking of the broncs or the nail-biting eight-second bull rides, crowds have gathered for the past 43 years at the annual Isanti Firefighters Rodeo.

2020 will be the year the grounds sit empty with the cancellation of events due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement released on May 12 by Tom Pagel, rodeo chairman and retired Isanti Fire District chief, the announcement of cancellation was made: “Due to the uncertainty the COVID-19 will have on summer events, the Isanti Firefighters Rodeo Association has made the difficult decision to cancel our 2020 rodeo. We feel that it’s the socially responsible thing to do. We thank our loyal fans and dedicated sponsors and we will be back July 9th and 10th next year stronger than ever. Thank you and stay safe.”

The rodeo, which draws thousands of attendees throughout the weekend, is something both the community and the Isanti Fire District look forward to each year, and its cancellation didn’t come easy, according to Isanti Fire District Chief Al Jankovich.

“Our nation’s trusted experts have made the decision that we need to take action to protect our vulnerable population during our pandemic,” Jankovich said. “Our rodeo association made a decision to cancel this year based off many factors, but ultimately we are putting the health of our community above all others.”

The rodeo is sponsored by the Isanti Firefighters Rodeo Association, a 501(c)(3) corporation composed of current firefighters in the Isanti Fire District as well as a wealth of volunteers, according to Jankovich.

“Forty-four years ago this July we started the annual rodeo. At the time the rodeo was hosted by our municipal fire department mainly because a few of the members had a passion for rodeo and a vision to couple it with a fundraiser that the community could enjoy. The success of the rodeo soon brought attention to the liability we were placing on our city, which evolved to the organization of our now nonprofit business who owns and operates the grounds we stand on today,” Jankovich said. “The rodeo has numerous gratifying benefits to those who volunteer to make it successful. Besides supporting the Fire Department, the volunteers are part of a nationally vetted rodeo and an entertaining local gathering.”

The rodeo not only gathered members of the community together for a weekend of fun and entertainment, but also strengthened the bond between firefighters and brought commerce to the area.

“As an officer of our Fire Department, I also look forward to the set up and operation of the event, as it brings massive amounts of camaraderie to our membership and volunteers. Hosting an event like this is a lot of work, but the challenge is especially rewarding once we see and hear all the positive support from our community,” Jankovich said.

“Our community is buzzing with energy during rodeo and Jubilee Days. I appreciate being a part of it. I feel the chamber members who organize the Jubilee Days share a passion for our youth with us. Those kids we see with painted faces and cotton-candy-covered fingers will soon be the ones keeping these traditions and good memories alive,” Jankovich added.

Despite the difficulty of making the decision to cancel the rodeo, Jankovich provided encouragement for next year, and appreciation for those who’ve volunteered during past years and helped to make the rodeo successful.

“I would like to stress a thank you to the volunteers who have supported our rodeo over the last 44 years. There has been a lot of passionate people who have donated many hours of time to make us succeed. Because of all the support, we have purchased a lot of equipment for the fire department, which in turn makes our jobs as firefighters safer and more effective while not affecting our budget. Passion similar to what got us here today is the same drive that will get us through this summer and on to better days,” Jankovich said. “We wish every one of our fans, sponsors, contestants, vendors and volunteers a great summer, and please know we will miss rodeo this year as much as everyone else. We hope everyone stays healthy during our year off and are excited to come back next year stronger than ever.”

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