Music from some large events can waft a mile across farm fields, area residents have reported.
Mexican-style rodeos have been popping up in rural Dakota County, drawing complaints about loud music floating across usually peaceful farm fields.
About a dozen rodeos, one drawing more than 450 people, have been held at a rented farm in Vermillion Township, southeast of Rosemount, deputies reported. The land, rented by the parents of rodeo organizer Raul B. Pliego, is zoned for agriculture, and gatherings of more than 300 people require a permit, said Capt. Joe Leko of the Dakota County Sheriff's Office.
The township has filed a civil suit seeking a temporary restraining order to stop the rodeos from resuming this year without a permit.
Police said the events, also called Spanish rodeos, have been held in Rosemount and at the county fairgrounds arena near Farmington, too.
Vermillion Township has tried since July to get Pliego and landowner David Quade to apply for a conditional use permit for rodeos at the farm on 220th Street, east of Hwy. 52, said Town Clerk Maryann Stoffel. Pliego and his attorney finally showed up at the February meeting of the town Board of Supervisors in Vermillion.
After leaving the meeting that night, Pliego described his events: "It is not a horse show. It is not a rodeo. It is more like a family gathering," he said, standing outside the shed-sized township hall. "We are from Mexico. We have horses for family occasions."
When a reporter asked Pliego what type of activities occur at the gatherings, his attorney intervened.
"We would not like to make this any more public or volatile than it is," said attorney Simon Trautmann. "It is unfortunate that community members are not able to fully participate in Vermillion Township like they would like."
He added: "We are not holding horse shows or competitions on the property as local ordinances define them."
Trautmann had just handed a partly completed permit application to the town supervisors. The three supervisors told him to fill in the missing permit information and bring the completed form to their March meeting.
"They know they are in the wrong and continue with their activities," said Supervisor Lewellyn "Wally" Stoffel. "We're taking action."
Vermillion is not the only government with which Pliego, 33, has tangled. In an unrelated case, he is one of four people charged with felony mortgage fraud in Hennepin County District Court. The case has yet to go to trial.
That alleged fraud involves a sophisticated equity-stripping scheme that relied on forged documents to qualify "straw buyers" for FHA mortgage loans. Federal authorities estimate the defendants brokered about $23 million in loans on 136 properties. According to the charges, the defendants pocketed fees of $840,000 on nine bogus transactions alone.
Dakota Sheriff's Capt. Leko said deputies had responded to loud noise or related complaints 13 times at Pliego's spread between June 19 and Sept. 24 last year. Deputies estimated a July 23 rodeo had about 200 vehicles parked around the farm arena and more than 450 visitors.
About 100 attended rodeos on Sept. 11 and 24. At the first one, deputies saw children buying snow cones in a farm building, leading them to suspect the event was being run as a business. A neighbor told a deputy he saw a red-and-white steer immobile on the ground, but deputies didn't note any signs of animal cruelty in their report that day.
At the Sept. 24 event, Sheriff's Sgt. Tim Samuelson walked behind livestock trailers that blocked the arena from view and saw riders on horses chasing cattle around in the arena, his police report said.
Some neighbors have complained about unusual training methods used on horses in the Mexican rodeos in Vermillion and Rosemount, said Keith Streff, senior humane agent for the Animal Humane Society, based in Golden Valley.
He said Dakota County residents called him after seeing rodeo horses secured with one end of a rope tied around a horse's muzzle and the other end taut to a tree branch above the horse's head to keep it looking upward for a few hours. When released, the horse tends to keep its head and eyes lowered in a submissive way preferred by the riders, he said.
Streff said he visited a Rosemount farm that has had rodeos and boards horses. He advised horse owners who used the muzzle technique not to do so. He said the method is not illegal unless he could prove injury or unhealthy effects to the horse.
Rosemount Police Chief Gary Kalstabakken said his officers have responded to complaints of neighbors a mile away who heard amplified music at a rodeo in the northwestern corner of his city. He said the rented site had an arena where a few rodeos have been held in the past two years.
Carl Denkinger, an enforcement officer for the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, said he checked on calls about cattle and horses used in the Vermillion rodeos. He said he determined that cattle were trucked up from Iowa for a rodeo and sent back the same day, which doesn't violate state laws on importing livestock.
Jim Adams • 952-746-3283