Leader of Corn Palace Stampede committee says annual rodeo at risk of not being held this summer
“I’m here tonight to tell you that the future of this community’s rodeo is at risk because of the selfish and thoughtless attitude of Horseman’s Sports Incorporated,” Jim Miskimins said.
MITCHELL — The annual Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo that’s been one of Mitchell’s most popular sporting events for decades is on the ropes this summer.
During Monday’s Mitchell City Council meeting, Jim Miskimins, president of the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo Committee, provided an update on the status of the July rodeo in the aftermath of a recent court case and said the event is at risk.
“I’m here tonight to tell you that the future of this community’s rodeo is at risk because of the selfish and thoughtless attitude of Horseman’s Sports Incorporated,” Miskimins said of the organization that owns the rodeo arena and serves as a landlord for the Corn Palace Stampede group.
Miskimins’ update on the rodeo came roughly two weeks after a jury trial over disputes between the Corn Palace Stampede Committee and its landlord, Horseman’s Sports. Tensions between the two organizations flared in 2020 when the Corn Palace Stampede group — the organization that puts on the annual rodeo — filed a lawsuit against Horseman’s Sports after its members took down an arena fence and altered other parts of the arena.
On April 14, a Davison County jury ultimately ruled that the Corn Palace Stampede group has the right to remove property it purchased and move those structures to a new rodeo site. In addition, the jury awarded $100,000 in damages to the Corn Palace Stampede group but did not award any financial damages to Horseman’s Sports.
“The Davison County jury unanimously found that Horseman’s Sports materially breached its lease with the rodeo awarded the major improvements made by CPS back to it,” Miskimins said, noting the three sets of bleachers that the city of Mitchell helped fund were included.
Although the courtroom battle between the organizations appeared to be settled, it was unclear how the outcome of the trial would impact the July rodeo.
Miskimins didn’t definitively say whether the Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo will go on in July as originally planned. He indicated that the committee will likely have a firm decision made on the rodeo within the next seven days.
Since 1971, Horseman’s Sports Arena, located along Highway 37 near Lake Mitchell, has been the site of Mitchell’s annual rodeos.
“The rodeo committee has worked tirelessly for the last 50 or so years to produce an event for the benefit of this community. Because the community has supported the event so well, we’ve been able to make significant contributions back to children's interests and other important causes to give back to our community,” Miskimins said.
Mitchell City Council President Kevin McCardle on Tuesday said he doesn’t see the parties coming to a compromise to ensure a rodeo in town this summer. McCardle said it seemed Miskimins attended the Monday meeting to place blame on Horseman’s Sports Incorporated in the event there is no annual rodeo this year.
“I think the bad blood between the two of them will get in the way of having a rodeo, which is unfortunate for the whole town,” McCardle said.
When reached by phone Tuesday, Attorney Tim Whalen, who represented Horseman’s Sports in the jury trial, said he hadn’t heard Miskimins’ comments but was quick to point out it was the Corn Palace Stampede that was the plaintiff in the lawsuit.
“The pleadings in the case speak for itself,” said Whalen, who acknowledged Horseman’s Sports Incorporated is still considering taking the case to the South Dakota Supreme Court. “They started the lawsuit, served my people. We merely responded in the court with what we were doing.”
The two rodeo organizations have worked together to host the popular sporting event for decades, but leaders of the Corn Palace Stampede Committee created a new nonprofit when the lawsuit began and secured a new piece of land in north Mitchell to build its own arena with the goal of parting ways with Horseman’s.
In 2021, the Mitchell City Council approved a 20-year lease agreement with the new organization called Mitchell Rodeo Foundation to allow the group to build an arena on 20 acres of land next to the airport for future rodeos. Since the lease agreement was approved, there has yet to be any signs of construction at the city-owned land.
The Corn Palace Stampede Rodeo is a PRCA-sanctioned event that brings top bull riders, bareback riders, team ropers and steer wrestlers to Mitchell each summer in mid-July. The four-day event also features a chili cook-off, a downtown parade and other social events, which is scheduled for July 13-16.