Canada's largest gay rodeo has been cancelled and organizers are placing the blame on Alberta's poor economy.
The Alberta Rockies Gay Rodeo Association (ARGRA) announced in May it would be cancelling the Strathmore event that's been a fixture in the small, southern Alberta town for 23 years.
No reason was given, leaving rodeo fans wondering if they would be refunded for the $99 weekend passes.
This week the organization posted a statement on its website declaring financial insolvency, citing the province's "severe" economic downturn.
The not-for-profit organization said sponsors were "negatively impacted" and a lack of financial resources forced the ARGRA to shut down.
"It was evident to them they needed to pull the plug earlier rather than see it play out again in another deficit year," said Bruce Gros, president of the International Gay Rodeo Association, to CBC News on Monday.
Gros expanded on his comments in a statement posted to Facebook.
"The loss of any association is always deeply felt. That is especially true in this case because of the unique flavour our Canadian members bring to our international rodeo circuit, and because the stain of insolvency threatens to blot out the long record of good compiled during ARGRA’s 23-year history, a record which includes more than $250,000 donated to charity."
The Canadian Rockies International Rodeo featured events such as goat dressing and drag racing, as well a traditional barrel racing and calf roping.
Kind gesture from Colorado
Last year's rodeo saw low attendance numbers, despite celebrity performers including The Village People and George Canyon, the Strathmore Standard reported.
The Strathmore and District Agricultural Society says the rodeo would have brought $20,000 to $30,000 in revenue to the community.
"The timing of the announcement ... compromises us as well in that we're trying to scramble to replace what would've been otherwise a very busy weekend here,'' society general manager Herb McLane told CTV Calgary.
The Strathmore rodeo was recently featured in the award-winning documentary "Queens and Cowboys," which followed gay rodeo stars from around North America.
On Monday, the Colorado Gay Rodeo Association announced on Facebook it would be offering free honourary memberships to any members of the ARGRA looking for an organization to compete under.
With files from The Canadian Press
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