By Reg Chapman

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A rodeo held every year in northern Minnesota welcomed a crowd of thousands over the weekend. That’s despite the order from Gov. Walz to limit crowds.

The North Star Stampede Rodeo in Effie, Minnesota celebrated its 65th annual event in style. Most in attendance protested by not wearing masks.

READ MORE: How Do U Of M-Developed Apple Varieties Get Their Names?

WCCO’s Reg Chapman has more on the efforts of some in Greater Minnesota to fight the state mandate.

For 65 years, the North Star Stampede Rodeo has been the biggest event in the small town of Effie, but COVID-19 was poised to shrink the event, limiting the number of people who could attend.

So instead of welcoming spectators, the owner of the rodeo allowed as many protesters of the mask mandate and crowd limits free admission.

Cimerron Pitzen took to social media to express his anger with what he considers ridiculous government overreach.

“I’m putting the rodeo on down here. There’s people coming to protest this ridiculous government overreach and they’re all on their own,” Cimarron Pitzen, owner of North Star Stampede said. “I’m not going to stand in their way. They have the right to assemble and the right to voice their opinion.”

READ MORE: Demolition Begins On St. Paul's Midway Shopping Center, Heavily Damaged During Unrest

Under Gov. Walz’s Stay Safe Minnesota Plan, outside events should be limited to 250 people. Some in Greater Minnesota disagree with him.

“I agree with the man running the rodeo,” Rob Farnsworth said. “I’m not concerned about it. If I was concerned I wouldn’t be here. I’m more concerned about civil liberties and personal freedom and personal responsibility.”

Health experts say the numbers suggest most Minnesotans support the mandate.

“The vast majority of Minnesotans, around 85%, have a favorable view of masks and only 9% reported they have an unfavorable view of wearing masks,” said Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm.

The numbers meant nothing to this crowd of protesters. Elected officials hope they have a change of heart.

MORE NEWS: Pediatric Hospital Beds Becoming Harder To Find In Minnesota

“We’re not asking Minnesotans to mask up for the health department, or for our elected officials, or for the big cities in Minnesota — we’re asking Minnesotans to mask up to protect their own health, their own families, their friends, their neighbors and local businesses,” Malcolm added.

Reg Chapman