UTICA — A foot of dirt has been spread across the surface of the Utica Memorial Auditorium for the Utica Stampede, when the rodeo will come to the city Thursday and Friday for the first time since 1989.
The American Professional Rodeo Association event will turn the venue — better known for ice hockey and indoor soccer — into the home of bull riding, bareback horse riding, saddle bronc horse riding, barrel racing, steer wrestling and more. There will be about 70 animals involved. Approximately 30 bull riders will compete for cash prizes in each event. The bulls will include Calico Kid, Dark Knight, Outlaw, Poker Face, Paige’s Delight, Old Yeller, Final Fantasy, Apple Ale, Steven Got Even, High Hopes, River Rat and Devil’s Horns.
Lucky E Ranch owner Tye Eglin of Gloversville is the organizer. He’s run events from Maine to Maryland, from May to September. He said most events are outdoors, unlike this one. “We don’t do a whole lot indoors.” So he was on site Tuesday overseeing crews getting the temporary dirt surface ready for the show. Trucks brought in 2,700 tons of dirt and machinery smoothed out a layer of clay mix before a sand mix was put on top of it.
The Aud will be a unique venue for fans who get to see the event from up high, as the stands there stretch up nearly to the ceiling to offer a perspective rarely available at rodeos. He said this pair of shows, which will be about three hours each, will have more of a concert feel, with the “replay boards” that will make them feel like a miniature version of the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
Eglin said about half the spectators will likely be first-timers, so he always wants to “try to make it as fun and enjoyable as you can.” That was Eglin once, he said, a first-time fan who came back for more. He’ll be participating in team roping this week.
Tickets are available on empirestatetix.com, in person at the box office or by phone at 315-790-9070. Tickets to the event start at $15 for a single day or $25 for a two-day pass.
The start time for both days is 7 p.m., with plaza events and 72 Tavern events planned for Friday.