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Rodeo saddled with controversy

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VB RANCH

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CHESTERVILLE — A local rodeo promoter has a burr under his saddle about the way he was treated by North Dundas Twp. council and is firing back with both barrels.

As he packs up and heads west to what he sees as more hospitable Rideau Lakes Twp., Kevin Pennock is claiming he was “blackballed” around these parts because of the failings of a previous rodeo operator.

President of the Upper Canada Rodeo Group, a not-for-profit foundation, Pennock urged North Dundas ratepayers to ask their mayor and councillors why the event — which he estimates will attract at least 12,000 spectators June 23-24 — is leaving town.

Unlike the Chesterville Agricultural Society, which refused to let the rodeo foundation use its fairgrounds, the Lombardy Agricultural Society in Rideau Lakes has welcomed the event to its grounds south of Smiths Falls.

In confirming the new arrangement, Lombardy manager Lee Lamping said the society sees the rodeo as a good fit and hopes it will be a successful addition for years to come. Pennock called it the “perfect” location.

He added that Rideau Lakes council has shown the “maturity and good business sense to see the valuable opportunity,” in contrast to North Dundas councillors, who wouldn’t even provide a letter of endorsement for a venture which didn’t seek municipal cash or services of any kind.

“They flat-out refused,” Pennock said. “When I pushed them for a reason, I was told that because another company had put on a rodeo and left creditors unpaid, they weren’t interested in mine.”

While he originally became involved with the first operator in a bid to rescue the former Upper Canada Rodeo, there’s no connection at this point between the companies, Pennock insisted.

“To date, every single bill associated with the foundation in Lombardy has been paid in full, up-front, including a $1,500 deposit. There isn’t one outstanding invoice.”

In re-establishing the rodeo in Lombardy, Pennock noted he’s received no grants or funding, no service club donations, and no committee support: “All of the capital investment has come from me. That’s my business style.”

With all but 15% of proceeds earmarked for charitable causes, Pennock said he’ll “write it off” if the rodeo is a bust. He said he has sponsors signed up and country music acts booked and vendors are champing at the bit for booth space. A free shuttle service from Smiths Falls has already been arranged.

Pennock really got ornery after North Dundas Mayor Eric Duncan publicly applauded a local group’s plan to bring public skating back to the South Nation River where it runs through Chesterville.

Duncan lauded the potential for attracting visitors to the village, the boost to local restaurants and other economic spinoffs.

“I don’t begrudge the skating project all the support it’s receiving from the township,” Pennock said. “I simply can’t understand why the minimal effort of a letter wasn’t put out for my venture.”

Duncan acknowledged that dealings of the previous rodeo operator had made it a “contentious and sensitive issue” which prompted council to proceed cautiously. Besides, he said, letters of endorsement aren’t normally given to new events.

“I don’t see how our endorsement would make or break the rodeo,” Duncan said. “It should be able to stand on its own merits.”

Duncan said he hasn’t heard a single ratepayer complaint about the rodeo’s decision to relocate.
 

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