Conroe Rodeo

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By Elliott Cochran – The Conroe Courier

As the Lone Star Stampede reached the halfway point of its three-day run – boasting of entertainment, barbecue cook-offs and carnival rides – some vendors complained the event wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

In its second year, the Stampede concludes at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds beginning at 10 a.m. today. But several vendors could be seen packing up their wares Saturday afternoon.

One vendor, Glenn Ward, of Tomball, said the Stampede’s projected attendance and schedule of events were not what he was told, resulting in financial losses.

“We’ve been more fortunate than a lot of other people out here,” said Ward, a food vendor. “But we were told that 45,000 people were expected to be here and there’s no way anything near that came out.

“You’ve got vendors who are already packing up today (Saturday) to go home and cut their losses,” he said.

Jeff Kessler, president of the Lone Star Stampede, said organizers did everything they could to insure the event was a success for everyone involved.

“We’ve got people who are mad and people who are happy but we’ve still got vendors who want to get in here tomorrow (Sunday),” he said. “We poured our hearts out for over a year organizing and promoting this thing, but it’s in God’s hands now.”

Kessler said the event’s total attendance has not been tabulated.

Glen Byler, who sits on the Stampede’s board of directors, said the threat of rain affected attendance Saturday. He said efforts to promote the event were in place months in advance, including the distribution of 9,400 free passes to schools across the county.

Ward said a petition citing the inaccuracies of attendance and the schedule of events has been circulated and signed by more than 50 vendors Saturday afternoon.

Ward said he brought approximately $1,000 in food that may have to be thrown away – based on the business the past two days.

Tomball resident Lonnie Markham and his wife Vivian had a booth in which they sellng purses, jewelry and accessories. Of their years attending fairs across the state, the Markhams said the Stampede was their worst experience.

“I was expecting a $5,000 weekend, based on what was promoted, but as of this (Saturday) afternoon, I’ve made around $35,” Lonnie Markham said.

While some vendors complained about slow sales, Sabrina Packer said her toy stand has faired well, and that the attendance is not the responsibility of the promoter.

“Everybody out here has been upset, but’s a gamble we take when we come out here and we should all know that by now every time we open for business,” she said. “This is not their (the organizers’) fault, period.

“This goes with the economy and everything else going on. The volunteers who are running this program kept their end of the bargain.”

Last year’s Stampede featured more than 400 rodeo participants competing for $50,000. But Stampede Vice President Jerry Rutledge said Hurricane Ike forced a change in the rodeo schedule for 2009, and the Stampede offered only team roping and barrel racing.

Earlier this month Rutledge said the Stampede has established itself as a nonprofit organization and planned to give a portion of event’s attendance revenue to the Montgomery County Fair.

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