Cavalcade moves parade to fairgrounds to keep horses safe

Robert Smith
Shelby Bute was chosen Cavalcade Queen during the 74th Annual Cavalcade Rodeo. A recent graduate of Pawhuska High School, Bute is the daughter of Jeff and Terri Bute. Kelly Bland, Osage County Tourism/Courtesy

Cavalcade Rodeo 2020 took precautions to avoid the transmission of COVID-19.

The world’s largest amateur rodeo, which took place last week at the Osage County Fairgrounds, was in its 74th year. Cavalcade Chairman Jeff Bute said 15 gallons of hand sanitizer were delivered, and another 10 gallons were staged, to help fight COVID-19.

“I have some left over,” Bute said. Cavalcade saw as a strength that most of its activities take place outside, with people spaced out more than they would be at an indoor event.

“People were very responsible,” Bute said regarding the caution that Cavalcaders showed in trying to prevent COVID-19 infections.

So it may have come as a surprise when Cavalcade decided not to hold its annual downtown Pawhuska parade on Saturday morning, complete with Shriner cars. Bute explained, however, that the decision had little to do with COVID-19. Instead, rodeo officials were making an extra effort to keep safe the horses that participate in Cavalcade.

There was a parade, but it took place at the Osage County Fairgrounds. A chief concern was maintaining the control of the parade setting deemed necessary to ensure there would be no spread of Vesicular Stomatitis.

Vesicular Stomatitis is a viral illness that can cause painful blister-like lesions to form in the mouths, in the nostrils, and on the tongues and lips of horses. Vesicular stomatitis can affect other animals as well — cattle and swine primarily.

Bute said Cavalcade officials had been aware of the Vesicular Stomatitis outbreak, and had monitored it as the virus spread in Kansas. When cases were diagnosed in Washington County, Oklahoma, the rodeo took action.

Horses being transported to the 74th Cavalcade Rodeo from Washington County had to have been checked for Vesicular Stomatitis within five days prior to traveling. Cavalcade told participants traveling from other Oklahoma counties to have horses checked within the previous seven days.

“We had great compliance with it,” Bute said, adding that Cavalcade had a veterinarian on-site to ensure that any horses that had not been checked before arriving at the Osage County Fairgrounds were checked before participating in rodeo activities.

Then, on Thursday of Cavalcade Week, the rodeo learned that Vesicular Stomatitis had been diagnosed at two Osage County premises. The rodeo’s reaction was to inform all round up club officials and to make available to them on-site at the fairgrounds the veterinary services they needed to transport their animals home in compliance with the state’s five-day requirement. The diagnoses in Osage County were not within 20 miles of the Osage County Fairgrounds, Bute said. He particularly saluted Pawhuska veterinarian Jan Johnston-Tharp for performing the necessary horse examinations.

Bute also commented that Cavalcade has a history of showing acute concern about the welfare of participating horses. The rodeo always runs a “Coggins Tent,” where it checks the health paperwork of horses to make sure they’ve been tested for Equine Infectious Anemia, he said. The test for Equine Infectious Anemia is called the Coggins Test.

So, yes, there was a Cavalcade parade last Saturday; and yes, it took place at the county fairgrounds rather than downtown because of concern about a virus. But no, the novel coronavirus was not the virus everyone was worried about. Instead, a livestock virus called Vesicular Stomatitis was the source of concern.