Despite over a century of tradition, Livermore was forced to cancel a legacy event that takes center stage once a year.

The Livermore Stockman’s Rodeo Association (LSRA) Board of Directors announced this year’s rodeo, which would have been the 102nd annual event, has been canceled. The announcement was made April 6 after the board met and made the decision to put the safety of its patrons and participants first.

“The decision to cancel this year’s event was thoroughly discussed and voted on by our elected board of directors,” the rodeo board announced in its press release. “This decision was based on the COVID-19 pandemic currently impacting the world.”

The statement went on to

explain that as social distancing was the best defense against the spread of the coronavirus, the board decided to wait until next year to hold its event.

“The lack of nonessential movement is absolutely necessary to overcome this pandemic that we are experiencing nationwide,” said Colby Staysa, board president. “To think that we are something special at Livermore Rodeo — that we could not follow appropriate guidelines or help prevent the continuous spread of this virus — is reckless.”

The Livermore Rodeo attracts more than 30,000 spectators to the area each year. The event began in 1918 as a federally mandated effort to raise money for the Red Cross during World War I. It was so successful, the LSRA was established the next year and the rest is history. Over the past century, the rodeo has become a successful community event supporting multiple charitable causes, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Livermore High School Sports Clubs, Future Farmers of America and the Mulberry Branch of Children’s Hospital. Failing to raise funds for these causes is what bothers him most about canceling, Staysa said.

“We generate a lot of money to help nonprofits like the VFW and the breast cancer foundation,” Staysa said. “There’s a lot of places that we contribute to, and we feel an obligation to help support the community, so not being able to gather funds to continue with that is really disappointing for us.”

While the country is sheltering in place, professional rodeo cowboys are likely doing the same, though Staysa said there could be rodeos elsewhere under certain guidelines — just not in California. As for the animals, Staysa said they are getting much-needed rest.

“In terms of the animals, they’re on vacation,” Staysa said with a laugh. “They are the No. 1 athlete in many of the rodeo events, and they’re due for some time off, and they’re getting it.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates on its website that while the virus can spread from people to animals, this circumstance is rare. Rodeo animals on vacation should weather the storm without incident, unless exposed to a person actively shedding the virus, as it can spread from people to animals in some situations.

While the LSRA is disappointed not to be hosting their event this year, they have promised to come back next year with a bigger, better rodeo.

“We hope to bring in some new acts for the 2021 performance,” Staysa said. “We want to expand upon the extreme bull riding event on Friday, and we are going to brainstorm and think of other ways to better solicit the crowd’s involvement in the coming years.”

The Livermore Rodeo website currently sports a countdown to next year’s event, which will be held June 11-13, 2021. Tickets go on sale in April 2021. For more information, visit www.livermorerodeo.com.