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SPECIAL REPORT: Rodeo and Airshow return to Salinas after pandemic postponement. What you need to know

CIty of Salinas rodeo sign

SALINAS, Calif. (KION) We're coming out of a year spent inside, away from friends, family and celebrations. The good news - Salinas is welcoming back the rodeo and airshow this Fall.

"[With] decades and decades of our community appreciating and wanting the Rodeo and Airshow to happen, I know that our residents are excited to have it back," Salinas Mayor Kimbley Craig tells KION.

We are not talking about drive throughs and scaled-down efforts. It is all systems go, including the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and other events on the ground and in the sky.

"We are going to have the Navy’s F-35C, their latest Top Gun fighter," California International Airshow Executive Director Harry Wardwell said. “It comes about two weeks before the release of Tom Cruise’s new movie, Top Gun: Maverick.”

Dirt will be kicking' up at the Salinas Sports Complex in September. Being pushed back to September means the California Rodeo Salinas is the Pro Rodeo finale, according to Salinas Rodeo Marketing Manager Mandy Linquist, who says all of the top riders are going to be at the event.

“We are hoping that we are able to have the horse parades, we are having the professional bull riding... followed by the rodeo September 23 to 26," Linquist said. "We are trying to get back to as normal as possible.”

Current state rules could change, but the California Department of Public Health says after June 15th, "outdoor mega events," meaning crowds above 10,000, will not have capacity or social distancing restrictions. Vaccine and testing requirements are only recommended.

"If we had the airshow this weekend, definitely, we would be wearing masks and there would be social distancing involved, and that may very well be the case in October. But we are hopeful that in five months from now more people will be vaccinated and things will be under control," Wardwell said.

Even if the state relaxes rules, counties can still keep in place more strict health measures. However, Monterey County has been following CDPH guidance.

There are some concessions this year at the Salinas Rodeo. Events like the Colmo del Rodeo parade are likely going to have to wait another year, and they just postponed the Big Week kickoff concert with country music star Toby Keith to 2022.

"You may not realize you have to start solidifying things, and how much money you have to put out, a long way before the event actually takes place. We also feel we want to give our fans the big concert experience they know and love,” Linquist said.

A previous report by the Airshow found they bring in 4.4 million dollars in direct and indirect spending to the Salinas and Monterey County area. They're hopeful the pandemic doesn't lead to falling local support, pointing to their experience after the September 11th attacks.

“We actually had their airshow on the weekend after September 11th, in 2001. So we have some experience of what it was like to have to adjust and amend our show," Wardwell said.

Big Week's estimated economic impact is 11 million dollars, with sponsorships helping reach a half-million dollars to mostly local non-profits, according to the Rodeo's website.

"We are hoping that if we can get full capacity, full concessions, all of the things at the Rodeo, we will be able to help the non-profits ramp back up," Linquist said.

The California Rodeo Salinas is scheduled for September 23 to 26, 2021, with Professional Bill Riding on September 22. The California International Airshow is scheduled for October 30 and 31, 2021.

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Aaron Groff

Aaron Groff is an evening co-anchor at KION News Channel 5/46.


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