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Rodeo brings big business to Great Falls

Aleya Varore
Dianna Olson
Posted at 6:00 PM, Jan 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-16 20:01:01-05

GREAT FALLS — It's rodeo weekend once again in Great Falls Friday as the Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit Finals were underway after a year away due to COVID.

As you can imagine, it is 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 Thursday as opposed to Friday as it has in the past.

"Last night was steady for a Thursday night,” said Dianna Olson, Cowboy Bar & Museum manager.

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

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

Dianna Olson
Dianna Olson

Despite the challenge a busy weekend can pose, she's looking forward to it, especially since there was no rodeo in 2021.

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

Next door at MT Pints, manager Aleya Varore said the tables and chairs won't be the only part of the business that's full.

"We have a fully staffed house tonight plus food runners and hostess and I think about four or five people in the kitchen and a dishwasher,” Varore explained.

Excitement was also not in short supply.

"All of us are getting really excited for the busy weekend because it is considered the slow season right now for restaurants because the holidays and stuff just getting over. No one has expendable cash, so we're really excited to get a big boom,” Varore said.

Aleya Varore
Aleya Varore

The weekend can also be big for hotels.

Visit Great Falls Montana Tourism director Rebecca Engum said room demand was down nearly 10 percent in 2021 without the rodeo compared to the year before when the rodeo was in town.

"The real telling economic factor is we saw a 12 percent decline in the average daily rate in our market from that weekend that we had the rodeo to the weekend we didn't. That all comes in from a supply and demand perspective. When you have higher demand on a product, the price tends to go up,” Engum said.

Overall, room occupancy was down four percent for the weekend in 2021 compared to 2020.