COMMENTARY: Calendar change needed at the SandHills Stock Show and Rodeo

It’s time for a change at the SandHills Stock Show and Rodeo.

Not with the personnel who run the event, or the contractors, cowboys and cowgirls that come in to compete at the annual Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event each year.

No, the change needs to be made on the calendar.

Every January, the SandHills is one of the first rodeos on the PRCA calendar, a prestigious spot for sure.

But it’s not one that really gives the event its best chance of drawing the top talent so early in the season.

The elite cowboys and cowgirls are less than a month removed from the National Finals Rodeo, a reward for a year-long journey to hundreds of rodeos around the country in order to qualify for a trip to Las Vegas each December.

Those athletes are strung out, physically and mentally from that 10-day pressure cooker and need time to decompress and prepare for another season. Many of them look to the bigger winter rodeos — Denver, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Houston — to earn big paydays in order to make the spring and summer months much less stressful.

It is just hard for the Permian Basin’s annual rodeo to compete against the National Stock Show in Denver, which begins next week, with the qualifying rounds having already taken place.

No, the SandHills needs to move to June or July, during that wonderfully hectic time around the Fourth of July known as “Cowboy Christmas.”

Big Spring runs a three-day event (June 21-23 this year) and Pecos runs a four-day event each year (June 27-30 in 2018).

There is a perfect window between the two events for SandHills to move into, keeping rodeo enthusiasts moving west down Interstate 20.

Pecos runs Wednesday through Saturday, so perhaps SandHills could run Monday through Saturday, with a short-go on Sunday to reward the top 12 in each of the disciplines and showcase them all in a final worthy of their talents.

Added money, added exposure, added excitement— a win-win situation for everyone.

It would be a lot easier to get the top competitors to travel 75 miles instead of jumping right in their vehicles for drives of 10 hours or more to get to their next stop as they try to compete in as many rodeos during that two-week period as they can.

SandHills would see all the top guns showing up to work inside the Ector County Coliseum, looking to make a check to kick off their summer charge.

Throw in an Xtreme Bulls event and things would really get rocking.

A schedule change would also alleviate some logistical issues with the Coliseum, which host myriad events during the year, along with the Odessa Jackalopes of the North American Hockey League from October through April.

Each January, the Jackalopes take a 25-day “Rodeo Road Trip” as the ice is taken out of the building for the rodeo, motocross and monster trucks. All those events could be moved to the spring, as well, when the dirt is back in the building.

Also, the Odessa College rodeo would then have the chance to build up its event, which showcases the top talent in the Southwest Region each February in the Coliseum.

Do changes like this happen overnight? Of course not, as there are some many contributing factors to putting on a PRCA event and doing it well, as the SandHills Stock Show and Rodeo does year in and year out.

But it’s something to think about.