The rodeo will gallop back into Gonzales next year as the Texas Junior High Rodeo Association (TJHRA) has decided to call J.B. Wells Park home for the next half-decade.
Previously, TJHRA officials have offered cities a three-year contract to host their finals rodeo, which brings hundreds of competitors and untold dollars of revenue to town. With a move to a new five-year contract, Gonzales had received competition from the City of Waco, who were interested in wooing away the young ropers and wranglers. But when the vote was cast, 26 board members decided to keep their operations here, with just one single dissenting vote.
“We had a great finals, one of the best we've had, both for the city and the junior high side,” said J.B. Wells Park Arena Operations Manager Anne Dollery, who also serves as the state secretary for TJHRA. The way she sees it, Gonzales has the premier facility and surroundings that is a major draw to families attending the week-long event.
For rodeo families, having adequate and plentiful camp spots and RV hookups is essential. Those families plan their yearly vacations around the event, and that convenience is a big sell for Gonzales. It's also helpful that there's plenty of room for the children to roam around and the park is far enough away from the city where their safety is not a concern. And having a meandering summertime river nearby to cool one's heels didn't hurt either.
According to Dollery, Gonzales has for years understood the importance of hosting the finals. Improvements have been made, such as building permanent pads to hold the horses brought in by the competitors. Waco came in with promises of a $40 million bond in facility upgrades to their arena, but completion of that is still years away, hamstringing them as a serious competitor. And even though their facility is air conditioned, it is located within the city with less room to roam and less camping opportunities currently.
An economic impact study has not been performed by Gonzales, said Dollery, but it would be wise to. The golf course alone took in substantial business over the week, which is just one facet of what the rodeo creates.
Gonzales Mayor Connie Kacir was pleased that TJHRA was coming back to town. After 14 years, the benefits were apparent, she said.
“The increased spending in Gonzales produces an infusion of dollars in our local economy,” Kacir explained. “Local businesses benefit from increased sales and the City benefits from increased sales tax and hotel occupancy taxes. “Hotel occupancy taxes create City revenue; however, this revenue is restricted and limited to expenditures that directly enhance and promote tourism and the convention and hotel industry. Sales tax is a major source of City revenue in municipal budgets. Sales tax benefits the City by increasing revenues which can be expended for any purpose other than payment of debt. Increased sales tax revenue increases the funding available to the city for city services such as streets, water, electricity and police and fire protection to name a few.”
The mayor commended city staff for their dedication in serving the 2,400 people and 830 horses for the event, which require thousands of details to pull off without a hitch.
“Rodeo preserves our heritage and the Western way of life,” Kacir said. “Gonzales is the heart and home of the cowboy and I feel this is truly where the rodeo finals is meant to be.”
Dollery also commended the Gonzales Chamber of Commerce, who helped coordinate with local businesses to bring daily meals to the TJHRA directors who no doubt enjoyed the hospitality and helped to cement their decisions to stick around.