© 2024 WNIJ and WNIU
Northern Public Radio
801 N 1st St.
DeKalb, IL 60115
Northern Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Return to Hola
Hola es su centro para mantenerse informado, compartir ideas y conectarse con recursos. (Hola is your hub to stay informed, share ideas, and connect with resources in northern Illinois.)

A Boone County committee considers limits on rodeos due to security, but officials say there’s no evidence of a problem

Boone County Rodeo/Animal Show Ad Hoc committee.
Maria Gardner Lara.
Boone County Rodeo/Animal Show Ad Hoc committee.

It’s been nearly eight months since the Boone County Board voted down proposals that would have nearly banned Mexican-style rodeos in the county. A special committee is now tasked with reviewing whether to recommend new regulations for the events.

The ad hoc committee has been meeting since August, looking at all matters related to the “charrerias,” or Mexican-style rodeos. These events have been held throughout the county for over 25 years.

During a meeting this month, the county’s assistant state’s attorney Karla Maville and Sheriff Scott Yunk shared their insight and expertise with the committee.

And what they had to say didn’t always align with what some members wanted to hear.

For instance, on the issue of liquor.

These sporting events are held on private property and are “Bring Your Own Bottle” or BYOB. Thus, rodeo owners don’t have a liquor license nor carry insurance required by bars and other establishments selling alcohol.

Boone County Board Chairman Rodney Riley wants to do away with BYOB at these events all together.

“I think BYOB is the root of the evil here,” he said. “At this point, I think if we're going to allow alcohol at these events, we need to look at requiring permits for alcohol sales license and do it the right way.”

But Committee chair Sherry Branson said there’s been no evidence of – quote -- “evil” taking place at these events.

“We all have our own assumptions and our own thoughts and feelings on the matter,” Branson said, “but we had no documentation of that described the State's Attorney's Office that ties the two.”

The county’s assistant attorney said it would be difficult to defend in court a policy that selectively bans BYOB at rodeos.

Rodeo organizers apply for a temporary use permit to hold events in the county.

Maville read a list of complaints the sheriff department received in 2022. There were less than 20. It included issues like traffic, loud music, and five regarding animal cruelty.

Committee chair Branson said she was surprised by the numbers.

“I have to say I expected it to be a much longer list,” she said.

Rodeo owners say they’ve always hired security for their events. And since last year they’ve hired additional security to comply with the county requirements that firms be licensed with a state agency.

The sheriff described the security operation at the rodeos as –quote --“at times, it’s impressive.”

And while some members want to bring forth a proposal on security, Chair Branson said there’s not much evidence demonstrating that there’s a problem.

“We have to go by what we have documentation for,” she said. “The state's attorney cannot enforce based upon hearsay; she has to have documentation.”

During public comments, Steve Hindi, the founder of SHARK, an animal rights group, disagreed.

“We've called the police over, and over, and over where those calls have been recorded,” he said. “I don't know [if they’ve been documented], but I know we made them.”

Also, he contended with the argument that rodeo operators and participants who violate the law ought to be the target instead of penalizing all rodeos. For him, it’s not a matter of a few bad actors.

“Time to stop talking about, what, ‘one bad location,’” Hindi said. “Every location -- we've said it over and over -- every location. What part am I not getting through on? Am I speaking a different language? I'm sick of it.”

The ad hoc meeting at times was contentious. At one point, the committee chair called for order after a member of the public interjected during the meeting.

Gracie Robles, a rodeo owner and a member of the committee shared some of the challenges she faces during public comments at a board meeting.

“Many times, at the ad hoc meetings I have felt frustrated, puzzled, bullied and even personally attacked by the public that was present,” Robles said. “Some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted or taken out of context. I would like to make very clear that we the rodeo property owners do not condone or support the abuse of animals at our events.”

Robles said they have a veterinarian on call the entire duration of their events in case of an injury to an animal.

Boone County board member Marion Thornberry said he’s displeased with the response from some county officials.

“The state's attorney says she doesn't she can't defend this, and she can't defend that,” Thornberry said. “Ladies and gentlemen, she doesn't have an option. Anything we pass whether it's an ordinance or regulation, whatever -- she has to defend whether she wants to or not.”

Boone County faces at least two lawsuits in relation to animal shows and the temporary use permits.

At the ad hoc meeting, members came to no resolution on the liquor and security topics. There’s no set timeline for when their work will conclude.

A Chicago native, Maria earned a Master's Degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois Springfield . Maria is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America. RFA is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. It is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, a nonprofit journalism organization. Un residente nativo de Chicago, Maria se graduó de University of Illinois Springfield con una licenciatura superior en periodismo de gobierno.