IFYR navigating changes as event ramps up

Vicky O. Misa
The Shawnee News-Star
International Finals Youth Rodeo (IFYR) Event Director Dale Yerigan gives an update to the Shawnee Civic and Cultural Development Authority Board Thursday.

Without a doubt, the annual International Finals Youth Rodeo (IFYR) Shawnee has hosted is — and has always has been — a collaborative effort on a massive scale.

With hundreds of volunteers, Pottawatomie County and the City of Shawnee, the Heart of Oklahoma Exposition Center has organized and established a successful world-wide event for more than two and a half decades.

Those same entities are determined this year will be no different, despite a couple hard hits the group has been faced with — first, the expo's transition to outside venue management provider Spectra in 2019; and second, the cancellation of last year's event, due to COVID-19 precautions.

With the addition of Spectra, operation at the expo has shifted somewhat — at least as far as who runs or maintains the grounds, which firmly folds another player into putting on the IFYR.

Also, COVID-19 halted last year's event, so the new team dynamic never got to be tested out.

At this week's Shawnee Civic and Cultural Development Authority (SCCDA) Board of Trustees meeting, most discussion was centered around getting all parties together on the same page to ensure nothing falls through the cracks in July.

Pottawatomie County Commissioner Melissa Dennis was very vocal at this week's meeting about the need for all parties to get on the same page ASAP.

With literally a brand new expo manager in town — Spectra's Katy Fleming arrived in Shawnee Monday — everyone is under pressure to hit the ground running as the countdown to IFYR is already underway.

The overall outlook is far from bleak, though.

The phrase, “This ain't my first rodeo,” can't help but come to mind — and couldn't be more relevant right now — as many of the IFYR's volunteers and organizers have been involved in the event for years, if not since its beginning here.

IFYR Event Director Dale Yerigan went down the line updating the board on different facets of the project, such as marketing, entries, setup and facility inventory. Sponsorships are coming along, also, expo Event Director Stephanie Gideon reported.

A consensus of concern appeared to center around the unusually poor shape of the expo and some of its equipment.

SCCDA board member and Shawnee City Manager Chance Allison said the city is already addressing recently discovered issues after a recent walkthrough of the property was done.

An electrician was hired and is now assessing and making needed repairs at the site. Some plumbing problems were cited, as well.

The next IFYR volunteers meeting, which was said will likely be scheduled around the 26th, will include board members and other entities so the team can iron out details.

Watch for updates.

For story ideas, questions or concerns, reporter Vicky O. Misa can be reached at vicky.misa@news-star.com.