Ahhhh jackpot season. The time when fresh horses are drug out of the pasture and colts are being seasoned on the pattern. Jackpots are great to attend. You pay your entry fee, visit with people you haven’t seen in a while, make a few runs that you saw going differently in your mind, and maybe enjoy a few beers at the trailer after. They’re a great outing and generally a relaxing and fun time.
Now switch sides and host a jackpot. There’s quite a bit of a difference when you’re on the other end of it, and I’m not saying it’s bad, but it definitely is not as carefree and straightforward. I’m quite thrilled that this year in our district there are a lot of people stepping up and hosting series or weekly jackpots. My belief is that if you are going to jackpot, you need to host at least once. This way people can realize what goes into planning and executing a jackpot, and be a tad more appreciative when attending one. I’ve hosted smaller jackpots and also bigger jackpots myself, and honestly, the amount of work you put into both is near the same. It doesn’t matter how many people who come, there’s always extra hours needed to get things done and organized.
So with that being said, I have decided to lay out a few pointers and tips for those of you who are thinking about having a jackpot. Please take these with a grain of salt, we’re all adults here 😉
- It does not matter how you advertise your jackpot, whether it’s on a website, Facebook, Twitter or posters, people will all call and ask the same questions. Be prepared to smile and offer assistance, even though you had posted ALL the information in plain sight. Keep in mind that if you plan to host more than one jackpot, you need to be nice to people, no matter your mood or feelings. Word of mouth is a huge tool within the barrel racing world and once you have ticked one person off, it spreads quite quickly.
- Whether you like it or not, you will likely agonize over the fees to charge. Sit down and decide what you hope to charge for extra fees such as timer fees, arena fees, finals fees etc. Are they all necessary? Generally, the only ones you will need are the finals fees, but if you’re paying out of your pocket for arena use as well as renting timers, then charge for them. It’s so easy to get caught up in trying to please everyone, but there is no sense in forking over a bunch of money for one afternoon. If you want more money going into the pot, then adjust for that. Small, weekly jackpots don’t need to break the bank, but if you are hosting one large weekend jackpot, then maybe accommodate for that and round up. People don’t mind paying more if they believe that there is more to win. It’s a lot easier to travel farther when you know the purse is higher.
- Be organized! I cannot stress this enough. Know ahead of time who is taking care of what and have a group of volunteers ready beforehand. It’s easy to think that people will help once they are there, but the sad truth is that most participants will assume you have everything covered and won’t help unless you directly ask them. Do not be afraid to ask! Lots are willing to help if they know exactly what is needed. If you are really in a bind, boyfriends and husbands who are drug along to a jackpot are more than likely bored out of their minds and can make excellent gate men or rakers (as long as it’s on a quad or something motorized). Have a cooler stocked with beer, they seem to work better when they are hydrated 😉
- Try to stick to a timeline. Starting on time is best for everyone since nobody likes to get to a jackpot and warm up, only to find out that they’re running behind and won’t start until an hour after the posted time. Be sure to have the ground worked and pattern marked beforehand so that it does not need to be done right before you start. Barrel racers like to stay in the arena as long as humanly possible, so it gets a bit harder to string out measuring tapes when you have everyone loping circles around you.
- Be sure to speak up. You are the host, so what you say goes. People will always try to find leeway within the rules, so be sure to stick to your guns. If you are sanctioning with an organization, brush up on their rules so that you are prepared for anything thrown at you. You not only have to think about everyone else’s safety but you have to be able to cover your ass as well. It’s ok to say no people, and most of the time the person asking will be respectful and carry on. You do have the right to send people away if needed, and that’s only in extreme cases. I have never seen this happen (which I am grateful for) so be sure to judge the situation from all angles if it does happen. Nobody likes attending a jackpot full of drama, so keep the crazy to a minimum if you can.
- Have someone ready who knows how to do payout. Payout is probably thee most stressful part of the jackpot and no matter how calm and cool you think you are, you will 9 times out of 10 screw up on payout and re-start and be ready to cry. If you can, find a place where people cannot come in and “check their times” so that you can have a quiet place to work on them. If the area has windows, cover them. Nothing is worse than trying to figure out payout and looking out and seeing 30 people hovering around the door pacing until they find out who won. Take as much time as you need, there’s no sense rushing through it only to find out that the wrong people got money and that you have to awkwardly ask for the money back and give it to the righful winner. Been there, done that. It’s not fun. Plus, if the jackpot is larger, please use a computer program to calculate payout, it will save you time and your sanity and everyone will be grateful for that.
- Lastly, have thick skin. There will always be people who complain or dare I say, bitch, about every little thing that you did at the jackpot. These people are likely serial complainers and nothing will ever please them. If they hated the ground then keep the attitude that they don’t HAVE to come back. As a host you do as best as you can and you cannot control everything. We’re all human and sometimes things don’t go as planned. No big deal! You will probably be thanked more than you will be cussed at, because really, people are happy to have a place to go to to make a few 17 second runs. Don’t take everything too seriously and know that without hosts, there wouldn’t be jackpots. Do what you gotta do, but always keep your cool and have a laugh and a drink when it’s all said and done.
Hopefully this helps any of you who are thinking of planning a jackpot and didn’t scare anyone off. Hosting can be super fun and with the right group of people, it’s a great time. So cheers to those who consistently host and good luck to those who are just taking a swing at it! We definitely appreciate each and every one of you