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Minnesota rodeo producer sued by attorney general

In a Facebook post, Cimarron Pitzen, North Star Stampede’s rodeo producer and stock contractor, said that while spectators aren’t allowed, those planning to attend could protest.

One Minnesota rodeo producer and stock contractor is being sued by the state’s general attorney for hosting a rodeo with no spectators allowed. All the while, in the next state over, South Dakota’s governor carried the flag in the opening ceremony of a South Dakota rodeo.

The Friday following the North Star Stampede produced by Cimarron Pitzen from July 24 to 26 in Effie, Minnesota, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a complaint in Itasca County District Court against North Star Ranch, LLC, for drawing large crowds after the state imposed a spectator limit of 250 fans.

Pitzen posted on Facebook on July 22, “Thanks to John Olson from the Mn Dept. of Health and Jason Pleggenkuhle from the Attorney General’s office pushing their political agendas, the North Star Stampede will take place with no spectators. If people would like to come and protest against this ridiculous Government Over Reach, feel free to do so, I will not stand in the way of peoples’ ‘Right to Assemble’”.

Pitzen and his ranch face a potential $25,000 fine for each violation of the order. This is the first time the state of Minnesota has enforced action on an entertainment venue that has acted “in open defiance of the law,” Ellison said in a press release.

Pitzen has since retained representation and has been advised not to speak with the media.

The Health department reported that one person who attended the rodeo has tested positive for COVID-19 after showing symptoms July 27.

Locals within and around the tiny town of Effie, population 118, have circled with wagons to support Pitzen and his decision to proceed with the rodeo. A Go-Fund-Me has been established to offset legal fees, and tee shirts and stickers emblazoned “Stand with Pitzens” are being sold for the same purpose.

Cody Noble’s family has been saddle bronc competitors and spectators at North Star Stampede for many of its 65 years. This year, Cody was a protestor and photographer. Due to the lack of rodeos being allowed, Cody hasn’t practiced this year to compete.

“That rodeo has been in my family for generations,” he said. “My grandpa Art Noble rode there in the 60s, and my father Luke Noble rode there in the 90s. I am the third generation cowboy in the Noble family to step in that arena.”

Prior to Pitzen’s Facebook post, Cody said rumors went around that the event would be canceled.

“As everyone has seen on the news about the peaceful protests and riots not being shut down or fined, Cimarron’s decision was final to have a peaceful protest rodeo,” he said of the rodeo producer.

Cody noticed efforts that the Pitzen family took at the event in order to minimize the COVID-19 exposure. In past years, campsites were closer together and after parties and groups were prominent.

“This year, the police department stopped people from having too big of a group, camp sites were spread out farther than the past years, and masks were encouraged, but not mandatory,” Cody said.

As a lifelong fan of North Star Stampede, Cody said he was glad of his decision to continue his family’s tradition attending the rodeo.

“As I see every year, at the rodeo are a lot of honest, God-loving, amazing cowboys, cowgirls, and fans,” Noble said. “Everyone, in my opinion, was tense about what has been happening. Once the first performance started, all of that stress and anxiety flew out the window.”


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