The newly named Bandera Ham Rodeo faced a variety of challenges last weekend — from the evolving threat of the coronavirus to protests from a major animal rights group but it was still seen by organizers as a success.
The fundraising extravaganza which grew to two nights this year from one in the past — practically filled the bleachers at Mansfield Park for the wild hog chasing contests that the event is known for on Saturday, March 14, and drew more people to a barbecue cookoff and vendors who signed up to display their products and services outside the arena.
The rodeo started Friday night, March 13, with a music festival featuring county music headliner Tracy Byrd, who thanked those in the crowd for braving the worldwide coronavirus outbreak to attend the performances.
Nick Barron, president of Bandera Wranglers nonprofit organization that has put the event on for two years, said the crowd may have been smaller than last year, but it was still a good event that the community supports and deserved to be held.
“We were in contact with officials, and there were no credible threats of the coronavirus in our area,” said Barron. “And we already had a large investment in time and money that we would have lost”
He said that the event had hand washing stations available to visitors to help them comply with recommendations from health care expert about the importance of keeping their hands washed as a defense against coronavirus.
Barron said protestors from the organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, showed up to protest the show like they did last year, though they tried to keep people away from the rodeo by claiming on social media that it had been cancelled.
Bandera City Marshal Will Dietrich said the first group of protestors were respectful of the rules that had been set up to govern their protests, but a second group was more unruly.
Some members reportedly tried to get into the arena grounds off of private property that borders the park to the north and had to be corralled by sheriffs deputies.
Dietrich said he was not aware of any arrests associated with that incident.
The marshal also said three structures, including the Boys Sr Girls Clubs of Bandera County offices in Bandera, were tagged by graffiti some time overnight Friday, March 13.
Painted on the Boys Clubs office was “Be Kind to All Animals,” while fourEight Plaques and Custom, an engraving and manufacturing firm that promotes itself as an authorized retailer for the Bandera Wranglers, also had its Bandera storefront defaced.
Painted on it was “Stop Teaching Children to Abuse Animals “
Also painted at those two buildings and on a sign at the Bandera Skate Park near the Boys’ Clubs office were the initials “ALE”
Officials believe that stands for the Animal Liberation Front, a loosely organized animal rights organization that has been linked to illegal conduct in it fight against animal abuse.
A spokesman for the protesters at the rodeo Saturday, Brian Wheat, denied his group was engaged in vandalism.
“We are representing PETA out here today,” he said of the some 20 protestors who appeared at the rodeo.
The Wranglers denied that the wild hogs used in the event were mistreated and said they had followed all the rules established by the state concerning the handling of wildlife.
Visitors enjoyed the timed hog-chasing and hog-catching competitions at the show. Many came to the rodeo from not just the Bandera area but from across the region.
David and Melisse Leger from Lake Charles, Louisiana and Joe Rutledse and his family from Pasadena said the coronavirus had no impact on their decision to make the trip to Bandera.
“1 wanted my grandson to get the chance to wrestle and chase a small pig,” Rutledse said.
Proceeds from the rodeo will be split between the Boys Sr Girls Clubs and the Wranglers, who take part in a variety of charitable activities during the year.