Rodeo in permit showdown with county

While the rain may be coming down in Gilroy, rodeo organizer Erik Martin, who staged the return of the Gilroy Rodeo in 2018, already has his eyes on August for the next event.

Martin is seeking a special use permit from Santa Clara County, which would allow the rodeo to operate for years to come.

But it won’t be easy, and what, according to Martin, should have been completed in 30 days has extended nearly three months due to ongoing wrangling with county officials. Martin is hopeful he’ll get some good news Jan.11 at a meeting with Santa Clara County Planning Department.

“I think the good thing is that once you have [the special use permit], you have it for good,” Martin said. “Once we get that, we intend to have the rodeo every year.”

The special use permit isn’t cheap, with a price tag reaching $100,000. Since Martin is already paying $40,000 to $60,000 in permit fees, the additional cost is worth the price.

Once this hurdle is cleared, Martin can focus on expanding the rodeo from two to four days, possibly from Aug. 14-18.

“We could start on Wednesday with local roping and barrel racing; we’ll focus on local participation on those days,” Martin said. “Maybe we can add some gymkhana stuff for the kids. It was a jam-packed weekend, so we could spread it out.”

Due to permit issues prior to the 2018 Gilroy Rodeo, Martin had little time to advertise. Compounding that challenge was a snafu with the online ticket agency. Despite the challenges, the Gilroy Rodeo drew 8,000 attendees.

Even with strong ticket sales, Martin estimated in August that the Gilroy Rodeo lost $20,000.

“It needs to be viable. We have the property, but at the same time we don’t want to feed it every year,” Martin said regarding the financial future of the Gilroy Rodeo. “We had a great time, but it depends on how much the county wants every year. We wrote a $45,000 check last year.”

The road forward depends on sorting out permits with the county, but unlike last year, Martin has concrete evidence that he can put on a successful rodeo.

“It’s not pie in the sky anymore; we can show them what we did,” Martin said.

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