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A bull rider competes at the 2019 Hamel Rodeo. This year’s event is canceled, due to the COVID-19 virus. (Photo courtesy of Dick Squire)

The Hamel Rodeo Committee has decided to cancel its 2020 rodeo due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing expectations.

“It was the socially responsible thing to do,” said Rowdy Dorweiler, treasurer for the rodeo committee. “We have explored every possibility, and there is no way we can host a rodeo that is safe for our fans, volunteers, contestants, and everyone involved. State and local health guidelines are not going to allow us to gather in such a large group.”

Planning had been underway for the rodeo, which was to have celebrated its 40th anniversary this year.

“It hurts at a lot of levels,” Dorweiler said. “So many people were looking forward to the anniversary, and the energy level of our committee members and volunteers was high. All year long we’ve talked about how can we make this year more special?”

The rodeo, which has a strong fan base, was a point of anticipation for fans, he said, in a summer that has been stripped of events and enjoyment. “So many people were looking forward to it. The rodeo was going to be a high point for them.”

Five volunteer organizations benefit from the rodeo’s proceeds. Over the last 39 years of the Hamel Rodeo, more than $2 million has been raised for the organizations. Without a rodeo, the opportunity to raise money is gone for those groups, Dorweiler said. “That will definitely be an economic blow to those groups and our community.”

The Hamel Rodeo will come back stronger and better next year, he said. “We want fans to have a good time and enjoy themselves. That’s what we strive for each year, and we’ll work even harder for that” in 2021.

Ticket holders, novice barrel racers and sponsors of the 2020 rodeo will receive full refunds in the coming weeks.

The 2021 Hamel Rodeo is scheduled for July 8-11. For more information, visit the website at HamelRodeo.org.

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