Your Guide to the Tucson Rodeo
Dust off the cowboy boots; “The Old Pueblo” is celebrating its 90th annual Tucson Rodeo and Tucson Rodeo Parade which collectively make up La Fiesta de los Vaqueros. The nine-day event schedule begins February 21st, drawing crowds from all over the world as hundreds of cowboys and cowgirls compete for nearly $500,000 in prize money. Proudly hosting the first major outdoor rodeo of 2015, La Fiesta de los Vaqueros offers a family-friendly experience like no other—one that has served as a staple in the community both historically and culturally since the Prohibition days.
In 1925, Leighton Kramer, a frequent Tucson visitor, created what is now known as the Tucson Rodeo (first introduced as the Tucson Mid-Winter Rodeo and Parade) in an effort to elicit tourism during the winter months and celebrate the town’s true pioneer spirit. Contestants in the rodeo’s inaugural year would have a shot at winning prizes such as a 750 pound block of ice or 100 pound sack of potatoes. The Arizona Daily Star even bore the headline: “Cowboys are asked not to shoot up the town.” How’s that for authenticity?
The rodeo is comprised of seven competitions: bull riding, bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, tie-down roping, team roping, and women’s barrel racing. While each has its own distinguishing qualities, bull riding is perhaps the most popular because of its dangerous nature and physical demands. Newcomers might be surprised to learn that the animals involved are just as important to rodeo scoring as their human counterparts and add another layer of complexity to an already meticulous craft.
- Kids Rodeo
The little ones don’t have to wait until they’re big enough to mount a bull as the Tucson Rodeo offers several events for kids from the sheep rides of RAM Mutton Bustin’ to the REACh Program, a free rodeo history lesson with emphasis on drug and gang prevention awareness offered to K-6 grade students. In addition, your mini cowboy or cowgirl can enter into the Justin Junior Rodeo beginning daily at 1:00 p.m. to showcase their skills in roping, steer riding, and barrel racing. End the day by bringing the kids to the Coors Barn Dance for just five dollars and enjoy quality cowboy-watching, live music, and a bite to eat.
This Old West themed spectacle holds the record as the world’s longest non-motorized parade and is expected to draw a crowd of nearly one quarter million spectators. It features horse-drawn carriages, colorful displays, and Mexican folk dancers as more than 200 floats move down Park Avenue. The parade begins at 9:00 a.m. on February 26th and grandstand tickets can be purchased by calling (520) 294-1280.
Planning Your Trip
To purchase tickets to the Tucson Rodeo, visit www.tucsonrodeo.com/tickets.html. Pricing starts from $14 for general admission to $70 for club tickets that include shaded seating, parking, food and drinks. For discounts on lodging, consider reserving a room at the Desert Diamond Casino for preferred rates.
Perhaps equally important to your travel arrangements is your education. Become well-versed in cowboy lingo before you hit the dirt running to avoid being seen as the rodeo clown. Review PRCA’s dictionary for tips: www.prorodeo.com/prorodeo/rodeo/rodeo-terminology
Whether you’re a Tucson native or a visitor, fifth generation cowboy or curious spectator, the Tucson Rodeo has enough excitement to keep you coming back year after year. And while the city’s residents may not have been thrilled about bringing a rowdy rodeo to an otherwise quiet town back in 1925, you would never guess it today with its crowd of 11,000 cowboys. Now that’s a lot of Stetsons.
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