“It’s sad because we’ve always had the rodeo,” said Ms. Brandenberger, who leads the Stony Creek Horsemen’s Association, which runs the rodeo.
She looked around the empty arena, named after her father, and sighed.
Around the country, but mostly in small towns in the West, hundreds of professional rodeos have been canceled — hard blows to tradition and economics. In many places, the rodeo is the biggest event on the annual calendar.
Some rodeos, like Stonyford, with $18,000 in prize money, are relatively small affairs. Some, like Cheyenne Frontier Days or the Calgary Stampede, are immense undertakings that last a week or two and, besides being daily rodeos with $1 million or more in payouts, are filled with concerts, carnivals and livestock shows.
The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the governing body of about 700 annual rodeos, estimates that about half will not take place in 2020. Those still on the schedule are working with fingers crossed, some moving dates to buy more time.
A few small rodeos in places like Woodward, Okla., and Mesquite, Texas, took place recently, but most rodeos in June are canceled.
“Covid-19 has impacted the entire country, every business you can think of,” said George Taylor, chief executive of the P.R.C.A. “Our business is a representation of that, but also represents a loss of community — something that brings these small towns together.”
Rodeo holds a unique spot in the American sports landscape. Golf, NASCAR, even the professional bull riding tour have resurrected made-for-television events from sequestered locations, mostly without fans. The N.B.A., N.H.L. and Major League Soccer are among those creating plans to quarantine teams all together to resume games far from their home arenas and stadiums.