For years, the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo has utilized the tag line, “Where Champions Come to Play the First Weekend in May.” With the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic shaking its nasty head around the region, the country and the world, the volunteer committee has opted to move this year’s festivities to the fourth weekend in August—the month has five weekends in it this year.
“This decision is what’s necessary, but it was also forced on us with the state’s closure to non-essential business through the end of April,” said Mitch Egger, chairman of the rodeo committee. “Our rodeo was set to begin Monday, April 27, and we had slack competition scheduled right up until our first performance on May 1.
“Because of the state order, it’s just not possible for us to go ahead with our rodeo under that time frame. Instead of canceling the rodeo altogether, we opted to move it to a date that worked well for virtually everyone involved.”
The first day of competition for the 2020 Pioneer Days Rodeo will begin Monday, Aug. 17, and will continue for seven days. The paid performances are set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug 22; and 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 23, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena.
Organizers of the other events associated with Pioneer Days – Mercantile, Rotary Barbecue, parade, carnival, etc. – will be making decisions about their events concerning the pandemic as well.
Pioneer Days has been a staple in the Oklahoma Panhandle for 88 years. It was established in the 1930s as a way for the community to get together during the “Dust Bowl” years that infiltrated much of the Plains at the time. Leaders selected the anniversary of the Organic Act, which, on May 1, 1890, made No Man’s Land part of the Oklahoma Territory.
That’s why contestants and rodeo fans alike have grown accustomed to having Guymon’s rodeo the first weekend in May annually. The rodeo has always been the cornerstone event around the community celebration.
“We would love to have our rodeo the first weekend in May like we always do, but this is out of our hands,” Egger said. “We are in an unprecedented situation with the coronavirus, and we have to consider this community in everything we do.
“Like our fathers did decades ago, we decided we wanted to continue to have a community celebration. This year it’s going to be in August, and we’ll have another reason to celebrate: We’ll enjoy time together after several weeks of self-isolation and be thankful for all that we have.”