SIKESTON, Mo. -- In an effort to improve the event, organizers of this year's Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo made moves to draw the top names in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
"We've always been in the top third PRCA rodeos nationwide, as far as size and money paid [to winners]. This year we've stepped it up and joined the elite company of the Wrangler Million Dollar Tour rodeos," said Patrick Douglas, rodeo board member and advertising and publicity chairman.
The Wrangler Million Dollar Tour is the PRCA's professional tour for 2009. It now features two levels of competition, Gold and Silver Level.
Seventeen rodeos will be part of the regular season, and two playoff rodeos will occur at the end of the season. The last playoff rodeo will determine each event's champions.
The standings will be determined by money won at tour rodeos. All money from the different levels will be counted equally in the standings. The top 24 contestants at the end of the season will advance to the playoffs. Wrangler National Finals Rodeo will be held in December in Las Vegas.
"Being on the tour really puts you in an elite group of rodeos. We've always been a top rodeo, and now it stands us above some of the rodeos that are local," said Matt Matthews, 2009 rodeo chairman.
"For rodeo fans, being part of the Million Dollar Tour is a big deal," Douglas said. "It really helps us to get the top cowboys and cowgirls."
"In terms of how ticket sales are going, we're extremely pleased with the presales," said Cal Crader, entertainment chairman and rodeo board member.
The rodeo is scheduled for Aug. 5 to 8.
New this year is an online ticket sales system -- accessible from the rodeo's website -- that allows customers to purchase and print their tickets from home.
"You can look at the seating chart, and it shows you what seats are available. "You can go and pick your own seat and purchase it and print it out in one trip to our website."
Beginning June 8, for the first time box seats will be available online, Crader said.
Crader said the Jaycees learned about the online ticket sales system during a national rodeo convention in Las Vegas.
"A lot of other venues use the [ClicknPrint Tickets] system, and they had a booth and demonstration you could sit through," Crader said.
By going to the new system, the goal is minimize waiting lines for those who want to purchase tickets the week or day of the Rodeo or to pick up already purchased tickets, Crader said.
"Those lines will be dramatically faster and shorter," Crader said.
Since the Jaycees started using the system, they've seen online sales double, Crader.
"We had pretty well seen it double every year since we started selling tickets online about five years ago. We had exponential growth of numbers of tickets sold online," Crader said.
Last year 22 percent of bleacher sites were sold online, and this year's sales are on track to double that, Crader said.
"Of those who've purchased tickets online this year, 90 percent have printed them already. We've had very few, if any complaints, and no real issues," Crader said of the new system.
The online system uses a unique secure bar code for each ticket, Crader said.
"When fans come to the rodeo, we'll have scanner guns (instead of tearing off tickets at admission)," Douglas said, people can still walk up and purchase a ticket at the Rodeo Grounds.
Besides the online ticket system, other moves have been made to increase efficiency, Douglas and Crader said.
"Times are more difficult, and money doesn't go as far, and we're making these changes to continue to be of value to patrons, especially for people staying close to home as opposed to going to a theme park and beach or wherever," Crader said.
In years past, patrons attending the rodeo and wanting to purchase tickets for the next night's events would have to go outside the arena and stand in line to purchase tickets, Douglas said.
"This year we've added an extra window inside the arena so if folks want to line up and get a ticket for the next night, they can do it faster and easier than before," Douglas said.
Also new this year is a telephone system at the ticket office located at the Rodeo Grounds.
"We do have a better way to handle telephone calls so if you absolutely need to talk to someone, you should be able to, especially in June or July," Crader said.
This year's entertainers are Darius Rucker, Wednesday; Billy Currington, Thursday; Montgomery Gentry, Friday; and Luke Bryan, Saturday.
Crader said those wanting to attend the rodeo should make plans now.
He said: "We encourage people who are sitting on the fence or aren't certain about when they're going to the rodeo to go online and get those tickets now."
For ticket information, visit www.sikestonrodeo.com or call 1-800-455-2855.