SHERIDAN — By nearly any metric, the Sheridan WYO Winter Rodeo exceeded expectations in its first year.
Sheridan Travel and Tourism Director Shawn Parker said his office planned the event on what is normally the slowest weekend of the year for Sheridan tourism, but the ultimate turnout was comparable to that of some of the city’s busiest days.
Parker’s initial expectations for the event were conservative and, in retrospect, modest. While planning the event, Parker said the rodeo could generate $172,224 for the community if it could draw at least 500 overnight guests.
The final numbers are still being tallied, but the Winter Rodeo’s appeal appears to have blown past those expectations. Parker estimated between 2,500 and 3,500 people — many of whom were local residents — visited Downtown Sheridan for the event. That included 214 individual skijoring participants.
“That represents the largest sanctioned race on the Skijoring America Circuit in the first year,” Parker said. “Most of these (races) have been around five to 10 years.”
Parker said that he is still calculating the economic impact of the Winter Rodeo, but by his “extremely preliminary” estimate, the event generated between $250,000 and $350,000 for the community.
Local business owners say they felt the Winter Rodeo’s economic impact.
Mark Demple, owner of the PO News and Flagstaff Cafe, said his restaurant saw more business over the Winter Rodeo weekend than it does during its busiest days of the year.
“We did more on Saturday during the skijoring than we did during (the Sheridan WYO Rodeo) Friday,” Demple said.
Demple added that the WYO Rodeo week in the summer is typically the busiest time of year for Flagstaff, but business tends to be strong throughout the summer. Crowds thin considerably in the winter months, though.
“You’re probably going to do, in February compared to the summer, half to three-quarters of what you’d do in the summertime,” Demple said.
Having one of the strongest days of the year during what is typically one of his business’s slowest months was a welcome boost, Demple added.
“I think it was a great event for the community, especially in the middle of February when we aren’t doing anything,” Demple said.
Angie Caster, who owns the WYO Buckin’ Beans coffee roasting company, set up a coffee stand outside of Black Tooth Brewing Company on the Saturday of rodeo weekend. She estimated serving 400 customers, which is comparable to the business she’s done at large events in the past.
“For one day, the business was awesome,” Caster said.
WYO Buckin’ Beans is primarily a roasting company, but Caster said she sets up stands at events like in-town bazaars, barrel races in Gillette and the summer Sheridan WYO Rodeo. Normally, she runs those stands by herself but, because she anticipated a busy day, she enlisted her best friend to help serve coffee during the WYO Winter Rodeo.
She was glad she did.
“There was no way I could have done it by myself,” Caster said.
Parker said that the unanticipated outpouring for the first Sheridan WYO Winter Rodeo may lead to some tweaks to future events to better accommodate crowds, but because of the enthusiasm the event generated, the city may have forged a new tradition.
“The good news is we keep hearing ‘First annual, first annual, first annual,’” Parker said. “Which makes me think we have to do this again.”