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Back in the saddle: Tucson Rodeo set for long-awaited return

The Tucson rodeo is set to return for the first time since Feb. 2020.
Posted at 10:20 PM, Feb 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-19 00:20:46-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — A year ago the Tucson Rodeo grounds were a ghost town. The 2021 edition of the iconic event never happened—a Covid casualty.

On Saturday, the rodeo finally returns for the first time since the pandemic began.

“When we didn’t get to have a show last year, it was like somebody told us there was no Christmas,” Rodeo committee chairman Mark Baird said Friday, adding that the mood has flipped completely since then.

“Once we knew we were going, then it really kicked in to gear. Cause everybody got fired up. And it was like, ‘Alright let’s do this, and do it right.’”

Final preparations took place Friday, with vendors filling their tents and last-minute deliveries coming in. The animals were already settled in next to the grounds.

“Controlled chaos, but you know it’s all come together and it’s gonna be perfect,” said Rodeo Operations Manager Stacy Madigan.

She says the preparations ramp up every January, but never really stop.

“Most people think the rodeo comes in for two weeks of the year and then we leave, but we’re here all year,” Madigan said. “So we have a full-time staff all year round that’s working, and working towards the next rodeo.”

The long layoff actually allowed organizers to add new VIP fan experiences and make repairs and improvements they say have been needed for years.

The most notable is a brand new surface inside the arena.

“About 160,000 tons of dirt, we scraped out the top 14 inches of it, replaced it with all new blend,” Baird said. “Better footing for the animals, better landing spots for the contestants.”

Not all vendors were able to return, but those that could are thankful to be back.

“Tucson has the ability to bring people from all over the world. So we get a lot of international customers in here… And it just feels good to be able to give ‘em a piece of what we live every day out here in the Southwest.”

The Tucson Rodeo runs from Saturday, Feb. 19 through Sunday 27 at the Rodeo grounds at Irvington Road and 6th Avenue.