ROCK SPRINGS, Wyo. – Officials recommend that local residents stock up on essentials such as prescription medications and be prepared for changes such as heavy traffic and slammed restaurants as an influx of 10,000 people are expected to coincide with the start of the National High School Finals Rodeo.
Undersheriff Craig Jackson said the event will likely cause disruptions in the day-to-day routine of residents.
“We are anticipating, from the numbers from last year at Gillette, that approximately 6,000 to 8,000 people will be camping at the Events Complex for the seven days that they will be performing,” Jackson said.
Traffic will also be disrupted during the rodeo, according to Rock Springs fire chief Lyle Armstrong. Interstate 80 exits 102 and 104 will be used to direct people to the Events Complex. In-town traffic will be multiplied with the increase of people as well.
The speed limits on Yellowstone Road will be temporarily dropped from 45 mph to 35 mph. Armstrong said he expects the road to be backed up for 24 hours when participants begin to check in.
The Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office, Rock Springs Police Department and Green River Police Department will have six patrol officers or deputies on patrol at the rodeo in addition to a communications staff and other support staff, Jackson said.
“It will be composed of mixed units including volunteers from jurisdictions like Bairoil and even mounted patrols from neighboring counties,” Jackson said.
Jackson, who will be the incident commander for the event, said policing the event will be a lot like policing any other community. The lack of alcohol sales at the event will likely lessen the amount of trouble experienced, he said.
Jackson said that while alcohol sales are banned, the parents of participants are free to bring alcohol to their campsites. He also said problems of a criminal nature will be handled with immediate disqualification from the rodeo, as the National High School Rodeo Association will send these participants home. This punishment is meant to be a deterrent due to the high cost for families to attend the rodeo.
Officials said the most expected issues include medical problems related to altitude and heat.
“We’re going to have a lot of people that are not familiar with this area. We’re going to have the altitude that they’re going to have to deal with. Now, we got the smoke in the air,” Major Dennis Claman said. “There’s always going to be some medical issues.”
There will be personnel from Sweetwater Medics, Castle Rock Ambulance Service and Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County present because of all of the potential health difficulties.
The Sweetwater County Emergency Management agency will be using the CityWatch notification system to alert participants of any emergency. The CityWatch system allows emergency services to call residents in a reverse 911 setup. Jackson said arriving participants can register with the county to be included in alerts.
Armstrong is the lead fire official in the incident command system. Armstrong said from a fire safety point of view, water availability and access as well as egress issues are his department’s priority.
The Events Complex installed a new water system that supplies water to the three campgrounds and the fire hydrants in them in order to insure the availability of water for firefighting efforts.
Armstrong said before the improvements were made, the only water supply for firefighting was from a nearby pond.
“That just wasn’t good enough, so they installed a full system,” Armstrong said.
Currently crews placed lot number signs on the campground stalls so emergency crews can find their destination in the event of a call.
“We need to know exactly where to go in the event of an emergency, whether it’s medical or a fire emergency,” Armstrong said, adding that there will most likely be two firefighters and one engine at the event in case of emergency.
Armstrong said he expects local services and merchants to be stretched with an influx of business.
“People will likely be going to name-brand establishments,” Armstrong said. “I don’t plan on going out to eat that week.”
Armstrong said a local retailer checked sales records from Gillette when the city hosted the NHSFR and discovered that a lot of the additional business brought in occurred after 9 p.m. when the rodeo events stopped for the day.
“They also discovered what items they needed to stock up on in anticipation of the upcoming rodeo,” Armstrong said.
He said some of the improvements are likely to remain at the complex for a few years so Rock Springs can host other events such as the National Junior High Finals Rodeo.
“I’m pretty sure the big view is it would be nice in five, 10 years to make a permanent vendor space ... a Casper Events Center-type thing,” Armstrong said. “They have a big plan for this. This is where they’re at.”