Sunday, June 18, 2006 

By David Guo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


The Butler Rodeo, a fixture among the county's summer activities for 27 years, won't be held this year or, perhaps, ever again.

The Butler Farm Show board of directors reluctantly decided to cancel the event because of low turnout and rising expenses, said Ken Metrick, board secretary. The event usually was held in June. 

The rodeo has been losing money for several years, hurt by rain and dwindling interest in rodeo as a novelty, said board member Jim Lokhaiser, recording secretary. 

Still, he said, the board vote in the fall was close and tightly contested, leaving the door open, perhaps, for the rodeo's revival. 

"It was a hard decision to make," he said, particularly because of the work of fellow board member and longtime rodeo Chairman Elmer Colteryahn, of Prospect.

 "Common sense had to prevail," Mr. Lokhaiser said. "It's just getting harder and harder. ... If you had one day of rain, bad weather, you're dead." 

"[Mr. Colteryahn] put on a great show. However, I think he finally came to the realization after all these years, it's not worth it. You're beating your head against the wall." 

Mr. Lokhaiser said competition from the North Washington Volunteer Fire Department Co. Professional Rodeo had little to do with the board's decision because it's held in August and it's about 20 miles north of the Butler Farm Show grounds on Route 68 near Butler, where the Butler Rodeo was held. 

In its 47th year, the North Washington event will be held over five days beginning Aug. 15 at the North Washington Rodeo Arena on Route 38. According to its Web site, the event will feature increased payoffs this year totaling more than $50,000 for competitors. 

Although the decision not to hold the Butler Rodeo was made in October or November, Mr. Metrick said, concern was expressed last summer that something had to be done to bolster interest. 

"In June, we thought about changing the date to one later in the summer," he said, because of graduations and weddings taking place in June. In recent years, the three-day event had averaged about 3,000 people. 

"If we did it again, it'd probably be in another part of the summer," he said. Another possibility, he said, was shortening what traditionally had been a three-day-weekend event.

"I'd like to see us try doing it one night or something, to see what happens," Mr. Metrick said.

Mr. Colteryahn could not be reached for comment.

As chairman, he was responsible for putting on a show that featured national-class performers. Events over the years have included bareback, bull and saddle bronc riding; barrel racing; calf roping; steer wrestling; and team roping. 

Mr. Lokhaiser said he didn't know how many attended last year's rodeo, but estimated that the event cost roughly $40,000, with about half of that amount paid upfront to the promoters. Grounds upkeep and advertising were other significant expenses, he said, and electrical utilities were an unexpectedly high cost last year.

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