Rusk County Rodeo organizers announced Sunday they will not hold an event in 2020.

In an email to officials for the city of Ladysmith, Rusk County Board and Rusk County Jr. Fair Board, PRCA Rodeo Promoters, Bob and Johanne Williams said, “They have decided not to produce any more rodeos either in Ladysmith or in any other locations in 2020.”

“The previous editions were a great success, and we wish to thank each and every one that contributed to the production, success and presentation of the Rusk County Rodeo inside our community,” the Williams stated in the email.

A reason for their decision was not included in the email. They could not be reached for comment.

It also was not clear if the Williams would produce rodeos here or anywhere else after next year.

The Williams produced the Rusk County Rodeo at the county fairgrounds during the Rusk County Jr. Fair each of the last two years.

The county recently granted the Williams permit request to host a rodeo at the Rusk County Fairgrounds later in the summer, the weekend of Aug. 21-22. The fair board also recently formed a subcommittee to work with the Williams with the goal of holding a rodeo on the same weekend as next year’s fair. Bob Williams recently confirmed the couple also had reserved the Barron County Fairgrounds for a rodeo there in 2020.

These moves raised numerous questions about the date and place of next year’s rodeo.

Fair Board Chairman Ron Freeman called the rodeo a good event despite the difference of opinions on some matters because “It brought people in” to the fair.

“We are going to have to figure out what we are going to do,” Freeman said.

Freeman admitted to being surprised by the Williams’ decision given recent approvals and meeting results with them.

“They have to decide what is best for them,” Freeman said. “At this point I am not surprised by anything.”

“As a fair board we need to know what is going to happen so we can move on. If they are not going to be with the fair then we can fill the spot and get our programming moving,” Fair Board Vide Chairman Terry DuSell said.

DuSell said the Williams had indicated they wanted to stay in Rusk County due partly to potential conflicts in Barron County, which would mean scheduling a rodeo close in time and location to where the popular Spooner Rodeo is held each summer. He also said the later summer date in Rusk County would mean conflicts with school starts and athletic events that could hurt attendance.

“His preference was to stay with the fair, and the other option he told me was to retire and not produce the rodeo. That was the email we got two to three days later,” DuSell said.

The fair board is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 8 at the Rusk County Courthouse.

“We will move forward with making plans for our own programming,” DuSell said.

DuSell said the program could go in many directions including bringing in a motor sports event or even the county seeking to promote its own rodeo.

“There are all different kinds of things we can do, and those discussions will start Sunday night,” DuSell said.

DuSell said the early cancellation of next year’s rodeo is better than learning later in the season after other events are booked by other fairs and festivals.

“Then other events we can get involved in could be booked already, and that could take our opportunities away,” DuSell said. “We could go maybe a maximum of a couple of weeks so we could either plan for the rodeo or plan to go forward.”

“It gives us more time to do our planning. In all reality the best case scenario for us is to have 85 to 90 percent of this fair put together by the first of next year, and then working on the fine details like finding volunteers and sponsorships,” DuSell said.

DuSell did not expect the Williams to have a change of mind and promote a rodeo next year in Rusk County. He said it would be unlikely the county would promote its own rodeo due to the huge cost.

Fair officials at a recent meeting announced a decline in rodeo attendance between the first event last year and this year’s event. Last year the rodeo had attendance of 4,200 compared with 3,200 this year.

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