Rawhide Staff Plays Lead Role In Vaccination Event

Emma Hughes
Gila River Indian News



When it comes to hosting large-scale events like concerts and the annual Mul-Chu-Tha Fair & Rodeo, the Rawhide Western Town and Event Center has many years of experience. The Rawhide team’s familiarity with handling big crowds was especially useful as they worked with the GRIC unified command task force to help coordinate the Community’s drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination events held last month. 


Combined, the Feb. 13th and Feb. 20th events had more than 1,500 attendees there to get vaccinated together with hundreds of volunteers and staffers. Even with the large crowds, the two events went off without a hitch. Part of the reason for that success was the more than 100 Rawhide members who assisted with security, traffic control, transportation, site prep and feeding and providing water for workers and attendees.


“We really wanted to make sure that we demonstrated to the Community members that they can depend on every one of the agencies that they already look to, but also to the agencies they might not think of,” said Mark Grado, who has served as Rawhide’s General Manager for the past two years.

Grado said a lot has changed for Rawhide during his time as GM. The venue – an enterprise of the Wild Horse Pass Development Authority, which also oversees the Gila River Hotels & Casinos – has been faced with multiple challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, including restriction and closures that have slowed down the entertainment business. Even so, Grado said his team has overcome many of these challenges by being flexible and creative.


One example: Rawhide has been able to bring back live entertainment by creating “pod concerts.” This allows guests to attend live events while being separated in an 8x10 space (pod) for each group. The pod style was also used for the Community’s graduation event last year. 

Rawhide also created revenue through a partnership with Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which uses the venue’s vast space to house Enterprise cars that are not in use. Rawhide continues to host events at Wild Horse Pass Motor Sports Park and at their event center. All such events have limited capacities, social distancing and other safety precautions enforced.