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IFYR: COVID-19 causes concern for July collections

Vicky O. Misa
The sun sets during the International Finals Youth Rodeo at the Heart of Oklahoma Exposition Center in Shawnee, Okla., Monday evening, July 8, 2019. The 2020 rodeo will not be held because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After 27 years of hosting the International Finals Youth Rodeo (IFYR) at the Heart of Oklahoma Exposition Center, July in town is going to be sans the usual influx of around 1,000 cowboy hat and boot-wearing, bib-numbered contestants — as well as sales revenue from the roughly 10,000 visitors the event brings in.

Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, organizers have decided to cancel the event.

The IFYR is traditionally a tremendous boost in revenue for the area. The city did not respond to inquiries about what the impact might be.

“It's one of our largest months for sales tax,” former City of Shawnee Finance Director Cindy Arnold said a few years ago.

“Looking back a few years, we see an increase for August collections of $100,000-$150,000,” she said, referring to sales recorded for July.

Also, many area businesses directly benefit from the temporary swell of shoppers — IFYR has been said to bring a boost of 25 percent in sales around town throughout that week.

The decision

According to the IFYR website, the decision to cancel this year’s event was made during the April 22 Shawnee Civic and Cultural Development Authority Board of Trustees meeting.

“The decision was extremely difficult for the members of the Board,” the site reads.

Registration was set to begin for the July rodeo on May 1.

“The decision was not made lightly and the health of our athletes and their families, volunteers, rodeo personnel and staff is the top priority of the board during this unprecedented time,” the IFYR posted on its Facebook page Thursday. “The IFYR is more than an event, it is a family. Those who have been involved through the years know the importance of relationships, memories and opportunities fostered during rodeo week and we anticipate this to continue in the 2021 IFYR.

Next year’s rodeo is scheduled July 11-16, 2021, the post reads.