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Rodeo brings big business to Great Falls

GREAT FALLS — This is rodeo weekend once again in Great Falls on Friday as the Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit Finals got under way after a year-long absence due to COVID.

As you can imagine, it’s a big weekend for businesses like bars and restaurants.

Late Friday morning, there were a handful of people indulging in the cowboy atmosphere at the aptly named Cowboy Bar and Museum in Great Falls.

In 2022, the rodeo started on Thursdays instead of Fridays as in the past.

“Last night was stable for a Thursday night,” said Cowboy Bar and Museum manager Dianna Olson.

Not only is rodeo weekend business different from a normal weekend, Olson said the entertainment for the 2022 PRC Rodeo will also be different.

“Sometimes it’s almost double our income,” Olson said. “We have live music. Normally we just do karaoke, but we have a country band.”

Despite the challenge that a busy weekend can represent, she looks forward to it, especially since there was no rodeo in 2021.

“It really hurt us last year,” Olson said.

Next door at MT Pints, manager Aleya Varore said tables and chairs would not be the only part of the business to be full.

“We have a fully equipped house tonight, plus food delivery people and a hostess and I’m thinking four or five people in the kitchen and a dishwasher,” Varore explained.

The excitement was not lacking either.

“We’re all very excited for the busy weekend because it’s considered low season right now for restaurants because the holidays and stuff are ending. No one has spare cash so we’re really excited to have a big boom,” Varore said.

The weekend can also be important for local hotels.

Visit Great Falls Montana Tourism executive director Rebecca Engum said demand for rooms was down nearly 10% in 2021 without the rodeo compared to the year before, when the rodeo was in town.

“The most telling economic factor is that we saw a 12% drop in the average daily rate in our market between the weekend we had the rodeo and the weekend we didn’t. Everything it comes from a supply and demand perspective. When you have higher demand for a product, the price tends to go up,” Engum said.

Overall, room occupancy was down 4% for weekends in 2021 compared to 2020.



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