A change in location and jurisdiction for the 50th annual Alpha Psi Rodeo in 2015 brought an increase in the number of arrests at the event compared to 2014.
Rodeo took place Saturday, April 11, at Ingram Farms on U.S. Highway 80 with a headline performance by Brad Paisley.
Alpha Psi, which is the veterinary fraternity, began the amateur rodeo in 1965 for veterinary students. Since then, the event has opened up to the public and grown to draw nearly 15,000 people, according to the Alpha Psi Rodeo website.
In past years, Rodeo has been held at a location on Sandhill Road in Auburn, but the event was moved to Ingram Farms this year because of road construction and traffic concerns.
Moving the location out into unincorporated Lee County meant the Lee County Sheriff’s Office became the primary law enforcement agency responsible for policing the event.
“We had a lot more support staff and law enforcement officers at a much higher number than in previous years,” said Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones.
Several agencies provided resources to support the Sheriff’s Office for the event, including the Auburn Police Division, the Opelika Police Department, the Lee County Emergency Management Agency and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, according to Jones.
Jones said the crowd was approximately 10,000 people, although it grew and shrunk throughout the day.
The increased police presence also meant an increase in arrests. Forty-five people were arrested at this year’s Rodeo, according to the Sheriff’s Office. In 2014, six people were arrested at the Rodeo, according APD reports.
Jones said four DUIs could be tied to people attending the rodeo.
In 2014, a 22-year-old woman was injured in a car crash while riding in the back of a truck while leaving Rodeo. The driver of the truck was arrested for driving under the influence.
Alpha Psi responded to the incident by banning Rodeo attendees from riding to the event in the back of trucks.
Bobby Woodard, vice president of Student Affairs, sent an email to students in March distancing the University connection to Rodeo.
“Following the 2014 rodeo event, we encouraged the organizers to present a safety plan in order to receive any future logistical assistance from the University,” Woodard said in the email. “They failed to complete that plan after extensions of numerous deadlines.”
Seven people had to be taken to the East Alabama Medical Center, including a person who was injured bull riding, according to Jones. Eight people were taken to EAMC in 2014, according to an Opelika-Auburn News report.
Despite the increase in arrests, Jones said the event went well.
“The majority that were in attendance were very cooperative and patient with what we were trying to do,” Jones said.
Matt Tanaka, philanthropy chairman for Alpha Psi and sophomore in veterinary medicine, said the location of next year's Rodeo remains to be determined.
"We think (Rodeo) went great," Tanaka said. "In talking with law enforcement, all of our vendors and sponsors and a lot of our attendees, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Brad Paisley put on a great show."
Alpha Psi pledged to raise $1 million over 10 years in 2010 for the College of Veterinary Medicine, and Rodeo is their largest fundraiser, according to Alpha Psi’s website. Tanaka said Alpha Psi has raised approximately $475,000 of their pledged goal.
Alpha Psi worked closely with the Capt. Chris Wallace of the Sheriff's Office to provide security, according to Tanaka.
"Capt. Wallace is a great man," Tanaka said. "A great guy to work with. I can't tell you how grateful we are to have been in partnership with (the Sheriff's Office) for our event. They were absolutely wonderful."
Jones credited the taxis and buses with keeping people safe.
“Certainly (having a good time) involved having beverages, and we appreciate them not getting behind the wheel,” Jones said.
This story was updated at 7:45 p.m. April 16 to include comments from Matt Tanaka of Alpha Psi.