County Chairman: “I’m not a big fan of rodeos”

The Alachua Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) approved a set of fees and rules for events held at the County Agriculture and Equestrian Center in Newberry.

The rules, which went into effect upon approval on March 10, include a required meeting with the BOCC for approval of events categorized as rodeos or roping activities.

Commission Chair Robert Hutchinson suggested the removal of rodeos and roping from the pre-approved animal acts list of events, which include activities such as barrel racing, breed shows, cattle sorting, bull riding, dressage, livestock shows and mounted shooting.

“I’m not a big fan of rodeos,” Hutchinson said. “I think the skills that used to be critical on farms and ranches are no longer used and are largely not humane, and I don’t see any value in continuing to promote them as entertainment, but that’s just me,” he said referring to activities such as calf roping.

Hutchinson questioned if the arena is suited for rodeo or if an event holder would need to bring in rails and protective barriers to keep bulls inside the arena and not a threat to event goers.

Vice Chair Mike Byerly asked if Hutchinson meant to exclude all aspects of rodeos, but it would be a case by case basis Hutchinson said.

Commissioner Ken Cornell offered, “If we said rodeo and roping would have to come back to us for approval first. We’re not excluding it, but they explain to us what they are doing and we approve it.”

Commissioner Charles Chestnut said he was concerned about eliminating rodeos because they are still a popular event and youth programs still participate in rodeo contests.

“That was a real big thing in central Florida,” he said. “My concern is, I understand how the chair feels about it, but I wouldn’t want to eliminate something that an individual or children or young adults who would want to go professional in terms of rodeo riding. I wouldn’t want to hinder that.”

Gina Peebles, assistant county manager, offered a solution to the BOCC.

“If and when somebody wanted to rent the facility for a rodeo that we could bring all of their requested acts to the board with a description of what that entails and then you can say yes to the ones you think are appropriate and no to the ones you think are inappropriate,” she said. “So they would not be on the pre-approved list.”

Cornell agreed with the suggestion.

“The way I would see it working Commissioner Chestnut,” he said, “is if that event would want to come here, they would have to come to us and three of us would have to say it was okay. But we would at least be aware of what’s going on.”

The facility formerly known as Canterbury Showplace was acquired by Alachua County in August, 2019.  The Center operates under the management of Visit Gainesville and at the direction of the Alachua BOCC.

There is a covered arena for equestrian events that rents for $400 per weekday and $600 per weekend day, a covered arena for non-equestrian events that rents for $1,500 per day and an outdoor uncovered complex that rents for $200 per day. The fee schedule also itemizes rental costs for the clubhouse, fairgrounds midway, pole barns, camper hookups and food vendors. 

For more details about the Center, go here.

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