There won’t be a rodeo in Choteau on July 4, but the Choteau American Legion Post 6, the Sons of the American Legion and the Legion Auxiliary are inviting everyone to come down to the rodeo grounds on July 3 from 7 p.m. to midnight for a meet and greet event that will include beverage sales and live music but no dancing.
Legion Cmdr. Jerry Collins last week said the event will be open to everyone 18 and older. There is no cover charge. The Legion will be selling beer and alcoholic beverages. There will be at least one food truck, Spices and Spurs owned by Cassie Campbell, outside the rodeo grounds.
The Teton County Board of Health, which nixed the rodeo, approved the Legion’s plan for the rodeo meet and greet event, which Collins estimated would likely draw around 350 people over the five-hour event.
The Legion will have tables and chairs set up in the arena and in the grassy area right inside the front gate. People attending are welcome to sit at the tables or in the grandstands.
Collins said the event was originally designed to allow the general public to meet the rodeo personnel with Jacobs Livestock, contestants and the American Legion Rodeo Committee — Collins, Levi Hodgskiss, Marlin Styren and Aaron Leys.
Now, since there won’t be a rodeo, Collins said the meet and greet has shifted its focus and is inviting people to come to the rodeo grounds and meet the Legion Rodeo Committee and other Legion and Auxiliary members. While there will be live music, Collins said dancing is not allowed because of health concerns. “We don’t want this to be a dance, just because of the COVID-19 thing,” he said, adding that people would be encouraged to stay in their groups and purchase beverages from Legion members who will be hauling coolers around the arena.
Under the plan the Board of Health approved, there will be signs posted to advise people to maintain social distancing. There will also be separate entrance and exit gates. Group sizes will be limited to 10 people and people will be encouraged to wear face coverings.
Individuals who are at high risk to suffer complications from COVID-19 are encouraged not to come. There will be hand sanitizer stations and people are encouraged to sneeze or cough into a tissue or the inside of their elbows.
Everyone who attends will be screened for symptoms at the west gate of the west ticket booth. People who have been screened will either receive a hand stamp or a bracelet of some sort. Those attending will also be asked to sign a log, providing their address and phone number so that in the event of a case of COVID-19 exposure, the Teton County Health Department will be able to do contact tracing to limit the spread.
Portable toilets will be open for those attending the meet and greet, and will be cleaned every 90 minutes.
Collins said last week that the Legion hopes for a good turnout for the event, which will help recoup revenues lost because of the cancelation of the Legion street dance and of the rodeo.
He said the Legion members remained deeply disappointed in the Board of Health’s ruling on the rodeo, but are not going to dwell on the decision. “They made their decision, and we can’t really change what happened,” he said, adding that there is no need to talk bad about the board members who were put in a position to make a difficult decision.
He said he had hoped that if the Legion’s plan for a two-day rodeo with about 3,000 spectators did not work for the board, that board members would have given the Legion a number of spectators that they could approve.
Anyone who purchased tickets for the rodeo in advance will be refunded. Sponsorships from area businesses can also be refunded, he said, but added that any donations received for the rodeo will be put to good use. Anyone wanting to donate to help the Legion recover the $15,000 average net proceeds on the event can mail donations to: Choteau American Legion Post 6, P.O. Box 151, Choteau, MT 59422, denoting “rodeo donation” on the memo line.
Choteau ranchwife Bev Yeager, whose family is very active in the Montana High School Rodeo Association, has launched a Go Fund Me online donations page to benefit the American Legion.
“This civic organization is always there for our community especially when it comes to supporting our veterans and kids,” Yeager wrote on the gofundme.com page. “Some of the special groups they help through scholarships and other donations include veterans’ organizations, Cub Scouts, the Choteau Lions Club, Benefis Teton Medical Center, food banks, K9 Care Montana, the Caring Tree, FCCLA, Choteau Public Schools, the Teton Weatherbeater Arena, and other youth and community groups and projects. The loss of revenue generated by the Legions 4th of July rodeo and activities along with expenses could cut into their ability to support these groups. Please consider helping defray the expenses and loss of income by donating to the Choteau American Legion Post 6.”
People can find the online fundraiser by searching for “Choteau American Legion Rodeo recovery” on gofundme.com. As of Monday, the online site had taken in $1,500 out of a $15,000 goal.
People can also support the Sons of the American Legion by purchasing a 2020 75th Rodeo anniversary belt buckle from Styren, who can be reached on his cell phone at (406) 590-6326, for more information. The buckles sell for $100 each.