As International Finals Youth Rodeo looms in Shawnee, trustees address final preparations

Vicky O. Misa
The Shawnee News-Star
IFYR Event Director Dale Yerigan, at left, gives a report on progress regarding preparations for this year's IFYR as Spectra's general manager over the Heart of Oklahoma Exposition Center, Katy Fleming, listens.

For Shawnee, along with the heat of summertime, July means rodeo — the annual International Finals Youth Rodeo (IFYR), to be more specific.

A longstanding collaborative effort has united hundreds of volunteers, Pottawatomie County and the City of Shawnee, as the Heart of Oklahoma Exposition Center has remained home to 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 some hard hits the group has been faced with this year — 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.

More:IFYR navigating changes as event ramps up

Shawnee Civic and Cultural Development Authority (SCCDA) Board of Trustees held their last pre-show board meeting Wednesday, still hashing out details in the final stretch before contestants from all over the world start making a beeline into town.

With literally a brand new expo manager being put in place mid-April, Spectra's head over the Heart of Oklahoma Exposition Center, Katy Fleming, had to hit the ground running as the IFYR event was already closing in.

Still getting her feet under her, Fleming said trying to navigate through her first IFYR is proving to be a challenge, but is doing her best, and is actively seeking clear direction as to what is expected of her and her team.

She offered lots of kudos toward Pottawatomie County Commissioner Melissa Dennis and her crew as they have been spending a lot of time and effort after hours to help get the expo in good shape for the event.

The biggest hiccup right now appears to be that stall setup has been delayed, causing trustees to scramble to work out how to get hundreds of the animal pens assembled and ready in time.

More:Last year's seniors won't be eligible to compete in 2021 rodeo in Shawnee

The company that was hired — and already paid — to do the job couldn't complete the setup because other crews were in the way during the scheduled time. Electricians with their own workloads were expected to be finished before now, but much work is left to be done.

In the end, stall setup remains on the to-do list. Fleming said her crew has a full plate as it is, and would be too short-handed and slow to assemble that many stalls — work, she reminded, that was not originally expected of her in the first place.

Also, an expo event is slated for this weekend on one of the buildings, so there are some actions that can't get the go-ahead until it is over.

The board and staff are reassessing priorities, including the order various jobs are being tackled and how many expo improvement efforts can reasonably be completed in time.

IFYR Event Director Dale Yerigan also updated the board on different facets of the project, such as marketing, entries, setup and facility inventory.

Quotes on the level of spectator insurance are being worked out to line up with the $2 million requirement on current contracts with the expo.

With several days still left to register, he said right now there are just more than 800 entries set by 500 contestants and 668 stalls have been reserved so far.

“There are 279 RV spots reserved right now,” he said.

More:Pott. County, city of Shawnee provide funds for 2021 rodeo

Concerns remain regarding the unusually poor shape of the expo and some of its equipment.

SCCDA Board member and Shawnee City Manager Chance Allison said the city has been addressing recently discovered issues, after a walkthrough of the property was done. Electrical repairs are being made, and some plumbing problems were cited, as well.

The next scheduled SCCDA Board meeting won't be until after the rodeo has concluded, unless a special call becomes necessary to iron out any final details.

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