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Cracker Day Rodeo postponed due to hurricane damage
January 24, 2018

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This past weekend, there should have been bull riders, barrel racers and calf ropers converging on the Lee County Posse Arena for the annual Cracker Day Rodeo, one of the oldest annual events in North Fort Myers.

However, there is a good possibility the event will not be held this year because of damage caused by Hurricane Irma.

The storm caused significant damage to the stands, pavilion and the tower where the announcer and timer sit.

To fix the damage will take money, and since the posse arena, a non-profit organization, didn't have large amounts of excess cash, it has taken lots of time to complete the fixes.

Kathy Cross, treasurer of the board, said it will be a while before the arena becomes whole again.

"The tower was twisted so we had to redo the one side of the top floor. The bleachers on the far west wide went down where the billboards were, so we had to hire someone to put that back up," Cross said. "The pavilion's roof is ripped up. We want to hold off because we don't want anyone hurt."

Bobbi Harrison, another board member, said she feared the worst after Irma passed through. And while it could have been worse, it certainly wasn't great, either.

"After the hurricane, I was out of town. The first call I made was to ask of anyone had been by the arena. Driving by it, it looked bad," Harrison said.

The chute area and the concession stand were unharmed, the tower has been fixed and the stands are on the mend. However, it took lots of time, volunteers and money.

The arena caught a break when Margo Crowther, who was raised in the arena and now promotes the annual PRCA Rodeo there, donated a horse that was raffled off, raising $8,000 to help fix the tower, which Cross said cost $30,000 to repair.

However, Cross said they are still about $10,000 short of making the rest of the fixes.

The jackpot barrel races have continued, as well as other events that don't require a lot of people such as the truck pulls. They even had a barrel race, with an outside promoter, that had more than 160 barrel racers.

However, the Cracker Day Rodeo remains up in the air. Cross said it's a postponement for now, adding they could do something different such as Bulls & Barrels in the spring and revive the Cracker Day rodeo next year.

"It takes lots of money up front to hold a rodeo. If the riders are here and they bring the bulls in and it rains and nobody comes to watch, we still have to pay them," Cross said. "We had to have enough money for stock."

Two years ago, the youth rodeo was pushed all the way to May after torrential rains in January forced its postponement.

The PRCA Rodeo is still expected to happen sometime in late March, though not confirmed. Harrison said time is of the essence since peak season only lasts three months and as an outdoor facility it is always at the mercy of Mother Nature.

"The first few months of the year are packed with events in Southwest Florida. We may lose a window of opportunity," Harrison said.

"We can't do this much past Easter because by then all the Northerners have gone home so we lose a large majority of our crowds," said Brent Ray, Posse Arena president.

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