By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times
Whether there is a PRCA rodeo in Seward County’s future might be up tp a private group after a somewhat lengthy discussion at Monday’s county commission meeting.
Part of that discussion was some issues that have came out after that board and the Five State Fair Board had turned down the opportunity to fund the rodeo.
That is when, according to fair board treasurer Ty Lewick, some people, including a county commissioner later identified as C.J. Wettstein, had been allegedly speaking with businesses and individuals in the community, identifying themselves as fair board members, asking for sponsorships of the rodeo.
Lewick said the fair board itself has issues with this for a couple of reasons.
“We do have to go outside and raise a large amount of money from the community to put on all the events that we do put on during the fair,” he said. “With the commissioner and Renae asking for sponsorships leading the businesses to believe that they’re representing the fair, this is undercutting our fundraisers and makes us look like we don’t know what we’re doing. We have one person selling advertisements and sponsorships out there.”
Businesses would then tell actual fair board members they had been approached for money.
“We don’t know anything about it,” Lewick said. “It causes an issue.”
Lewick said the fair board was ready to sign off on the rodeo until the contract was drawn up.
“It had Seward County as owning the rights to the rodeo, but the fair board was going to have to pay for it out of the budget and the extra fundraising that we were going to have to do,” he said. “When the contract was drawn up with Seward County as the ownership, we as a fair board didn’t feel that we could legally sign it.”
Lewick added that with the fair board not owning the rodeo, that board’s insurance would not cover the event.
“We were running out of time, and ultimately, we decided we wanted to put off the PRCA rodeo until next year,” he said. “With us being two months away from the fair, we just didn’t feel there was any way to get everything lined out.”
Lewick said the fair board is simply trying to put on the best fair the county has seen in some time.
“We don’t appreciate the drama that has occurred just because we decided to hold off on the PRCA rodeo until next year,” he said. “As a board, we start in October each year to plan the next year’s fair, and it takes a lot of man hours to put this fair together.”
After Lewick finished, Wettstein spoke, and he said members of a group that has been formed to get a rodeo in Seward County have approached only one company about sponsorships.
“We’d approached the fair about four times and tried working different scenarios where they would put the rodeo on,” he said. “The fair board even came to the county commission and asked if we would come up with money. Commissioner (Jim) Rice had said he felt the commission should not be in the business of putting on a rodeo.”
Wettstein said he contacted officials with PRCA who told him that for $17,600, the rodeo could be done in Seward County.
“At that time, the fair called Sharon and left a message on her answering machine saying that the fair had decided that they would not put on the rodeo, and if she wanted to come back in October, they would talk to her about the rodeo for next year,” he said.
Wettstein said a rodeo group will have about 12 people (private citizens), and those individuals will come up with the money to put on the rodeo.
“We’ve just about got that done,” he said. “We actually have not went out and solicited any donations except one.”
Wettstein then addressed the contacts his group was allegedly making in an attempt to get sponsorships.
“If there are numerous people that have said they’ve been contacted and us saying that we’re fair board members contacting them, they’re lying,” he said. “We have put our rodeo group together, and we are planning on trying to put a PRCA rodeo on every year. Once we’ve got the rodeo group together and our numbers line up and we had the rodeo locked up, I did leave a message on Jennifer’s phone saying we have the rodeo line up. If you would like for us to work with you and put it on during the fair, we will do it. I never got an answer back. That was a week ago today.”
Wettstein said after the fair board and commission had turned down a chance to fund the rodeo, his group had tentatively set the dates for the event for Aug. 15 and 16. He said his group has done nothing wrong.
“We have only talked to one sponsor,” he said. “That is just because we went in and said we’re going to put our checking account in your bank, and we would like for you to sponsor one of the deals. They did. Everybody else has been individuals. The ones that are buying into the group have been individuals.”
Wettstein said he tells every member of the rodeo committee that they are not members of the fair board, and he said that message is clearly understood. He said forming the committee was a somewhat necessary step because of what he saw as a lack of action on getting local events to happen.
“Everybody says they want things to happen in Liberal, Kansas,” he said. “It seems the only way we’re going to get things to happen in Liberal, Kansas, is when there are people who are willing to step up, put some of their own money into it. Every person that is on this rodeo group has put their money into it.”
Wettstein said the rodeo facilities at the Seward County Fairgrounds have not been used to capacity for some time, and the rodeo committee is simply trying to get things happening at the arena.
“We’ve just got a group of people that were willing to put their money where their mouth was and put on a PRCA rodeo because they thought it would be for the good of the county,” he said.
Near the end of the discussion, Lewick said there are some communication errors that need to be resolved, and he believed the rodeo issue, for now at least, has been resolved.