SHERIDAN — Monday morning brought a much-needed reprieve for the staff of Bighorn Design on the corner of Main Street and Grinnell Plaza.
Following a hectic rodeo weekend — one which owner Joan Jacobson characterized as her busiest ever — the quiet of the early morning hours was a welcome change of pace, even if wouldn’t last for very long.
On several occasions last week, anxious visitors lined up outside the store before it had even opened in an effort to snag in-demand memorabilia and properly commemorate their trip to the Sheridan-Wyo-Rodeo.
“I think it just all came together this year the way it’s supposed to,” Jacobson said in reference to the crowds.
Unsurprisingly, Jacobson said sales surged during the week, and that they would likely remain strong throughout the remainder of the month.
“I think it was a little bit busier than last year and even the previous year,” she said. “It was rather chaotic.”
While official economic indicators aren’t yet available, Jacobson’s story likely isn’t unique among Sheridan businesses.
Several local commerce representatives said this year’s edition of the rodeo felt busier than past incarnations thanks to added events such as the Miss Indian America reunion and First People’s Powwow.
“Those extra events are what we need to be looking toward as an opportunity to get people to stay in Sheridan longer,” said Dixie Johnson, executive director of the Sheridan County Chamber of Commerce.
While no specifics have yet been decided upon, Johnson said rodeo organizers and community leaders have engaged in preliminary discussions regarding the possible addition of new events to next year’s celebration.
At the heart of their efforts is an attempt to broaden the week’s appeal among a wider array of demographics.
While it’s difficult to determine exactly how much the rodeo already contributes to the area economy, an analysis of last year’s ticket sales by rodeo bookkeeper Larry Gold led him to believe the event generated more than $5 million of local economic activity.
“From my perspective, I think it has a tremendous impact on the economy in Sheridan,” Johnson said. “If anybody was out and about over the weekend, they saw how many people were spending money.”
Still, she believes there’s likely room for growth.
Representatives of the local hotel industry said they agree with that sentiment.
Although the Best Western Sheridan Center is almost always booked solid during Rodeo Week, sales manager Sabina Szatkowski said the addition of the Miss Indian America reunion and a subsequent barbecue the hotel hosted for the event’s participants added significantly to the Best Western’s food and beverage sales.
“We had really good volume this year, better than most,” she said.
Additionally, Szatkowski said she felt the new event helped further expand the rodeo’s appeal to out-of-town visitors and locals alike.
“I think the Indian princesses added a lot to our Western flair,” she said. “I thought it was a great contribution to people who were driving through.”
The anecdotal increase in business is especially good news given tenuous predictions for national tourism this summer.
According to figures from AAA, gas prices nationwide have fluctuated more in 2013 than in many recent years. While some experts speculated that this relative unpredictability would lead to a decrease in travel, many Sheridan business owners said they haven’t taken a hit.
For her part, Johnson said that hearing similar stories makes her hopeful the event will continue to grow.
With the week now officially behind them, Johnson added that local leaders may soon begin entertaining serious discussions about how best to expand the event’s appeal.
If done correctly, she believes the week’s contributions to the local economy could continue to grow in the years and decades to come.