Cattlemen concerned about property rights

Why was Mexican rodeo treated differently than other arena events?

OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee Cattlemen’s Association has questioned why the Oct. 20 bullriding event at their arena was treated differently than other rodeos hosted by that facility.

“We hosted the Mexican Bullriding on our property on Sunday,” said James Colgan, president of the Okeechobee Cattlemen’s Association. He said while it was called a rodeo, it was actually a bullriding event.

“This is a huge event,” he said. “This is the same event the Okeechobee Cattlemen have Labor Day. We’ve held it for years.”

He questioned why the Mexican bullriding event was required to obtain a special event permit when the Okeechobee Cattlemen’s Association rodeos are not required to have a permit.

“We don’t have to jump through the hoops you made them jump through,” he said.

Mr. Colgan said they had no problems at the event.

“The food vendors were great,” Mr. Colgan said. The crowd size was about the same as that at cattlemen’s rodeos. Parking was easier than at other rodeos, he said, because nearly everyone drove a car. For the cattlemen’s rodeos, about half of the vehicles parked are trucks, which take up more space, he explained.

Mr. Colgan said the cattlemen are concerned when it appears local government is trying to take away private property rights.

“We are zoned for this type of event,” he said. “We have been doing it since the ’50s. You made them get a special event permit.

“We want to know why the county is trying to impinge on our private property rights,” he continued. “It seemed like you were trying to stop us from doing something.”

Mr. Colgan said the Mexican bullriding tradition dates back to the 1600s.

“The difference is when they do it, they bring in bands,” he said. “They had a 15-piece band when those bull riders were out there.

“If a rider comes off the bull and lands on his feet and takes the bell with him, he’s a superstar,” he said. (He added none of Sunday’s bullriders managed to achieve that feat.)

Mr. Colgan said no one from the cattlemen’s association was contacted before the meeting at which the Mexican rodeo was discussed.

He said the Mexican rodeos have been held for years at the Okeechobee Agri-Civic Center. This time, the Agri-Civic Center was already booked, so the promoter contacted the cattlemen about using their venue.

“From the first when they contacted us, we made two things clear,” said Mr. Colgan. The first priority was public safety.

“Number two, no animal cruelty. We would not stand for animal cruelty. We would shut it down,” he said.

“The cattlemen is a large group of landowners and we are constantly being attacked over our property rights. Now it seems we are being attacked locally,” he contended.

County Commission Chairman Terry Burroughs said the special event permit was required because the event was primarily a concert.

“We were concerned you have a hospital across the street. You have a nursing home across the street. We know the music from these events is very loud,” said Chairman Burroughs.

“The Mexican rodeo, or bullriding, has been a great event for the Agri-Civic Center. Yes, we’ve had some complaints, but we’ve worked through the complaints,” he said.

What it had to do with was whether the music was going to be too loud and disturb the folks in the hospital and the nursing home, the chairman explained.

He said the commissioners did not intend to encroach on the cattlemen’s property rights.

“They worked with us on the sound level,” said Mr. Colgan. He said during the event on Sunday, he went to the hospital and to the nursing home to make sure the sound was not bothering people there. He said you had to open the windows to hear the music.

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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