OKEECHOBEE — Plans for a Mexican rodeo at the Okeechobee Cattlemen’s Arena on U.S. 441 in Okeechobee on Oct. 20, drew some concerns at the Oct. 8 meeting of the Okeechobee County Board of Commissioners.
Matt Dorriety, manager of the Okeechobee Agri-Civic Center, said the agri-civic center has been the venue for Mexican rodeos in the past. This year, however, the promoter scheduled bands for a date the county facility was already booked for a horse show. The promoter then went to the cattlemen for use of their rodeo arena.
Okeechobee County Sheriff Noel Stephen said he plans to meet with the cattlemen to let them know his concerns about the event.
“I know it is titled as a rodeo. From what I understand there are going to be four different bands there. It’s more a concert than a rodeo,” said Commissioner David Hazellief.
“They do have a rough stock event,” explained the sheriff. “There is a lot of alcohol consumption.”
The sheriff said following a 2012 incident at the agri-civic center in which full cans of beer were thrown at deputies, they have limited the sale of beer at the events to two cans at a time per person, and also required the cans be opened at the time of sale.
He said the Spanish music popular at Mexican rodeos “has a lot of bass, and that bass has a lot of carry.” Depending on how those stages are set up, the county can expect complaints “about the boom, boom, boom from the bass,” he said.
Commission Chairman Terry Burroughs noted the hospital is across the street from the rodeo grounds and a nursing home is adjacent to the hospital. He also expressed concern about the traffic on U.S. 441 N.
“I don’t agree with it being there,” he said. “I am concerned about the noise. You’ve got people at that hospital who are sick. You’ve got people in that nursing home who are elderly. I don’t think that is the right place for it.”
The sheriff’s office has to assist with traffic for any event at the Cattlemen’s Rodeo Arena, said Sheriff Stephen. For rodeos, they usually have to shut down a lane of U.S. 441.
“It’s more of a concert than a rodeo,” said Mr. Dorriety.
“There is a bull riding exhibition that is kind of a sideshow that is integral with it,” he said.
The bull riding may include eight to 10 bulls, and it is stretched out over an hour or two.
“Due to population changes, attendance has been down,” he said. The Mexican rodeos at one time attracted 2,000 to 4,000 people. Now the average is around 1,500, he said. Some of the shows draw around 500 people.
Generally the October show attracts 1,600 to 1,800 people, he added. The show usually starts around 1 or 2 p.m. and is over by 8 p.m.
“The sheriff’s department is very familiar with handling those shows,” he said. “It’s going to present some challenges to them being at a different location. Traffic will be an issue because of coming out on U.S. 441 vs. on State Road 710 outside the city limits.”
The noise is going to be an issue, he said. “It is an issue at the agri-civic center.” He said someone from the Cattlemen’s Association should be at the event “to stay on them about the noise.”
Okeechobee Planing Director Bill Royce said, “a multi-band concert is pushing it (the rodeo arena) beyond what the rodeo grounds were built for.” He said the county could require a permit for the concert that restricts noise level and hours of operation.
“We have a fairly large Hispanic population. We should not deny them this entertainment,” said Commissioner Brad Goodbread. “If music is over by 8 p.m., that’s reasonable.”
In November 2012, a brawl broke out during a Mexican rodeo at the agri-civic center. The incident started after a member of the concert promoter’s private security team tried to remove a drunken, rowdy fan from the arena. When the fan punched the security officer in the mouth, deputies moved in to help him. The band’s lead singer, who apparently did not realize the deputies were trying to rescue a member of the band’s own security team, cursed at the deputies and urged the crowd to attack them. One deputy was kicked in the groin and others were pelted with cans of beer. Several members of the crowd, including a small child who was struck by a projectile, were taken to the emergency room. Four band members were arrested and the lead singer was charged with inciting a riot. Following that, the county required an increase in private security at the Mexican rodeos, and the band was barred from ever performing in the county again.