CowboySpirit.TV - To be frank with you, I had a hard time deciding how to approach my commentary this week. It was truly a week of highs and lows for our nation and for our Cowboy Spirit community.
It is tempting to go on a rant about the senselessness and evil that were visitied upon Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT on Friday. Believe me, I can rant with best of them.
As long time supporters of pediatric cancer research, we at Cowboy Spirit have always said that perhaps the greatest tragedy of all is when a parent has to bury their child. Sadly, this horrific act magnifies that tragedy to almost unspeakable depths. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by the events of this past Friday.
In addition to the tragedy in Newtown, CT this week, it was also the last week of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, NV. It's the Superbowl of the sport of rodeo and although there are always many triumphant stories that always come out of the WNFR each year, one stands out above all others to me.
What do these two events have in common? What comes to my mind after the triumphs and tragedies of the week? Unlikely heroes - heroines actually.
First, and she is but one of the heroes to emerge this week from CT is Victoria Soto, the teacher who literally put her body between the gunman and the kids in her class, giving her life to save them. If this had been a military engagement, her actions would certainly be worthy of a Congressional Medal of Honor. Vickie didn't go to work on Friday expecting to be a hero, but that is indeed what she was that day.
The other woman I want to highlight is Mary Walker, a first time qualifier to the WNFR in the Women's Barrel Racing at the young age of 53. Mary's story going into the WNFR is inspirational enough. In April 2011, Reagon Walker was killed in a car wreck. In June of that year, she and her horse, Latte, fell during a race; Mary Walker shattered her pelvis, broke her hip in three places, had two fractured vertebrae and suffered two broken toes, ultimately spending over four months confined to a wheelchair. Battling back from a broken heart and a broken body, Mary not only qualified for the Finals in 2012, but won four of ten go rounds, placed in four others, and set a single season earnings record, in the process earnings her first World Title at the age of 53. In my mind Mary's performance this week is every bit as inspirational a story as the 1980 USA Olympic Hockey Team, so to borrow Al Michaels' classic line, "Do you believe in miracles?" Mary sure did.
I mention these two amazing women, because when we talk about "Cowboy Spirit", they both very much embody that which we hold out as that ideal: to stand up and do the right thing, even when the price for doing so is immeasurably high; and also to never, ever give up - to persevere in the face of overwhelming odds, because the battle is worth it, no matter what.
As we approach the Christmas Holiday, we will be keeping those affected by the tragic events in CT in our prayers. I'll also be thinking of Mary Walker, whose "Can do - Never quit" attitude inspires us and spurs us on to do our very best, no matter the odds.
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CowboySpirit.TV - The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo dates back to 1896. Back then, it was a small cattle event held on the banks of Marine Creek in north Fort Worth. Today, the celebration of Western heritage runs 23 days and features rodeo competitions, livestock shows, kid-friendly exhibits, and midway and carnival fun, plus plenty of shopping.
Early firsts at the show and rodeo
In 1905, the first cash awards were given to participants at the Texas Fat Stock Show. The show changed names a few times over the years.
It cost nothing to get into the festivities until 1907, when a 25-cent fee was introduced. The first formal horse show was added that same year. General admission now runs $10 for adults and $5 for kids ages 6 through 16.
In 1908, Northside Coliseum opened as the show’s new home.
The first parade associated with the annual event took place in 1909 and featured nearly 40 Comanche and Kiowa braves led by Chief Quanah Parker.
In 1913, President Woodrow Wilson “turned on” the lights at the Coliseum from the White House.
The show’s first “indoor cowboy riding contest” happened in 1917. Rodeo events were officially added in 1918, increasing attendance significantly. Events included men’s and women’s bucking bronco, plus men’s and junior steer riding. Brahman bull riding joined the lineup in 1920, with bareback-bronc riding arriving in 1927.
In 1932, the first live radio broadcast of a rodeo took place at the show. NBC had the honor. The network also broadcast the first live TV broadcast of a rodeo from the show in 1958. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans hosted, along with George “Gabby” Hayes.
The show moved to Will Rogers Memorial Center in 1944, and Gene Autry became the first entertainer to appear at a rodeo.
Today’s Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo
The show and rodeo as they are now take place mid-January through early February each year. In 2012, the more than 1.1 million attendees broke attendance records, and the Grand Champion Market Steer went for a record-setting $230,000. More than 1,200 cowboys and cowgirls competed, and 22,000 head of livestock were brought to the show.
Designated proceeds from the annual event fund various grants and scholarships for future agriculture and livestock leaders. More than $20 million has been given to deserving recipients since 1980. To learn more about the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, visit the organization’s website.
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CowboySpirit.TV - A polo player started it all.
Leighton Kramer, president of the Arizona Polo Association, created La Fiesta de los Vaqueros and the Mid-Winter Rodeo and Parade to draw visitors to the area. The first event was held during Prohibition, and state prohibition director Frank Pool decided to clean up the town before festivities began. An estimated 3,000 gallons of moonshine were destroyed.
Rodeo participants march through downtown
Thousands of spectators came out for the first festival parade, which featured more than 300 participants, including Native American artist Lone Wolf wearing full regalia of a Blackfoot chieftain. Cowboys rode on horseback, as did members of the polo association, and the 10th Cavalry and 25th Infantry bands from Fort Huachuca marched in the parade.
Today's rodeo parade lasts two hours and features Western-themed floats, buggies and horse-drawn carriages, Mexican folks dancers, marching bands and Western riders . More than 200,000 spectators turn out for the parade each year.
First rodeo winners take home big prizes
The first Tucson Rodeo at Kramer Field featured only four events: steer wresting, steer tying, calf roping and saddle-bronc riding. The purse totaled $6,650 and prizes included 750 pounds of ice, 100 pounds of potatoes and a ham. The rodeo also put on a wild horse race and performances by Tad Lucas, a lady bronc rider, and Jack Brown, who bulldogged a steer from behind the wheel of a Packard.
Festival moves to an airport
In 1932, the festival and rodeo moved to an abandoned airport. The original grounds had seating for 3,000. At this same location, today's Tucson Rodeo seats 11,000 rodeogoers. Top professional cowboys and cowgirls compete for more than $420,000 in events such as bull riding, bareback and saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, tie-down and team roping, and women’s barrel racing. There’s even a Justin Junior Rodeo for ages 7 to 12. Festivities now last nine days.
The nonprofit Tucson Rodeo Committee and Tucson Rodeo Parade Committee puts on La Fiesta de los Vaqueros. Designated proceeds benefit the University of Arizona scholarship fund, the Lion’s Club, and various rotary clubs and 4-H groups. Visit the festival website for more information about the annual rodeo event.
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CowboySpirit.TV - The Calgary Stampede turns 100 this year, making this the perfect time to look back at the origins of the now-annual rodeo and Western celebration in Canada.
Calgary incorporates in 1886
The same year Calgary became a town, the Calgary and District Agricultural Society formed. The society put on its first fair in 1886. Two years later, it purchased 94 acres on Elbow River from the Dominion of Canada and added a racetrack, cattle sheds and an exhibition building.
Now called Victoria Park and containing additional structures, the lands hosted the Dominion Exhibition in 1908. A new livestock and horse show arena joined the park in 1911.
Guy Weadick comes to town
In 1912, famous cowboy and vaudeville entertainer Guy Weadick produced the “Frontier Days and Cowboy Championship Contest” at Victoria Park. He returned in 1919 to produce a follow-up rodeo event, dubbing it the Victoria Stampede in honor of the end of World War I. His goal was to create an annual celebration of Western culture and values.
In 1923, the Calgary stampede event merged with the Calgary Industrial Exhibition, becoming the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede. Weadick produced both events and added chuckwagon racing and other attractions and activities.
Today’s Calgary Stampede
Both the Calgary Stampede and its facilities have undergone extensive expansion over the past 100 years, but the spirit of the original events remains. This year’s 10-day celebration takes place July 6 through 15 and features daily competition in the Calgary Stampede Rodeo, plus nightly entertainment with the Rangeland Derby, Grandstand Show and Stampede Concert Series.
The derby features chuckwagon races between four wagons, while Paul Brandt and the Young Canadians headline the show. And let’s not forget the fireworks. Concerts in recent years have showcased the likes of Sugarland, Katy Perry and Kenny Chesney. The 2012 lineup includes Johnny Reid and Braid Paisley, so far. Agricultural showcases, midway entertainment and dining also are part of the fun.
Revenue from the Calgary Stampede benefits the Calgary Stampede Foundation, a charitable organization that spends more than $2.5 million each year supporting youth programs, including the Young Canadians School of Performing Arts and Stampede School, in addition to maintaining the facilities and producing Western events year-round. Visit the Calgary Stampede website for more information about its origins and for details about this year’s lineup of festivities. With 100 years to celebrate, the 2012 event will be bigger than ever.
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CowboySpirit.TV - Cheyenne Frontier Days reigns as the largest outdoor rodeo and Western celebration in the world. In fact, the annual event has been held outside since its humble beginnings in 1897.
Cowboys have always been competitive
Back in the day, cowboys tended cattle out on the open range for months at a time. When they were on their respective ranches, they held bronc riding competitions that drew other cowboys in the area. These friendly matches grew into a one-day rodeo held in Cheyenne on Sept. 23, 1897.
That one-day event evolved into Cheyenne Frontier Days, now called “The Daddy of ‘em All.”
Beauty queens get in on the fun
Cheyenne Frontier Days crowned its first Miss Frontier in 1931. To earn the title, contestants — there were six in the first year — obtained sponsorship from a local organization, and the organization sold tickets to the rodeo. The Cheyenne Post of the American Legion sold the most tickets that first year, putting Miss Jean Nimmo Dubois on the throne. In 1934, the Cheyenne Frontier Days took over selection of Miss Frontier Days and gave Lois Crain Moor the title.
In 1936, Miss Frontier Mary Helen Welborn suggested an official outfit for the role. She had seen fan dancer Sally Rand during a Cheyenne Frontier Days performance and admired her outfit: leather ponchos and a vest with fringe. Of course, the more modest Miss Frontier position called for the addition of a silk blouse underneath the vest.
Cheyenne Frontier Days retains its roots
While Cheyenne Frontier Days now spans nearly two weeks and features much more than cowboy competitions and the crowning of beauty queens, the spirit of the Old West remains. Top professionals compete for more than $1 million in cash and prizes during nine Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeos, and rodeogoers can visit the Native American Village and the Old West town of Wild Horse Gulch, which features Western merchants, craftspeople, artisans and in-costume characters such as “Buffalo Bill” Cody, “Wild Bill” Hickok and Wyatt Earp.
Other attractions and events include a carnival midway, air show, parades featuring antique carriages and cars, and concerts by country and rock artists held nightly. The festivities take place at the end of July each year.
Visit the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum website for more information about the origins of the event and the rodeo’s official website for this year’s lineup of festivities.
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CowboySpirit.TV - Rodeos attract a wide variety of folks. Some want to see cowboys atop bucking broncs, while others appreciate the impressive livestock on display. And more than a few simply want to see their favorite country stars — or pop and R&B for that matter — in concert. No matter the reason for attending, those who enjoy the rodeo have “Buffalo Bill” Cody to thank.
A Showman Is Born
While many debate when the first rodeo was held in the United States, no one disputes that William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody popularized this type of event. Cody left his home in Kansas at the age of 11 to herd cattle and drive wagons. He also spent time as a fur trapper and gold miner before joining the Pony Express in 1860, but it was in the U.S. Army that Cody earned the nickname “Buffalo Bill” because of his skills as a scout and hunter. His exploits gained him notoriety in both newspapers and dime novels.
In 1872, at the age of 26, Cody joined the “Scouts of the Prairie” show. It was a success, and he was hooked on being a showman. Cody soon created his own troupe, the Buffalo Bill Combination, and the “Scouts of the Plains” show. He starred in it alongside "Texas Jack" Omohundro and “Wild Bill” Hickok. Every show Cody put on contributed to rodeo becoming an American pastime.
‘Wild West’ Arrives on the World Stage
Cody created “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” show in 1884. The outdoor event featured hundreds of cowboys and cowgirls riding broncs and roping steers, plus other live animals on display such as buffalo and elk. Cody toured the world with this show until 1913, when a loan he took out resulted in the seizure of “Wild West” and forced him to appear in Tammen’s Sells-Floto Circus. He died three years later at the age of 71.
His Spirit Lives on in Modern Day Rodeo
While much has changed since Cody popularized rodeo as an sporting event, the spirit with which he lived his life and ran his shows endures in today's rodeos. In every town his show visited, Cody made sure children from local orphanages were able to attend for free. Many of today’s rodeos, such as the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, exist as nonprofit organizations that use proceeds to fund scholarships for student participants.
For more information about "Buffalo Bill" Cody, visit BuffaloBill.org.
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3 of Our Favorite Rodeo Movies
The sport of rodeo is one of the most iconic symbols of the culture of the American West, and it has been immortalized in dozens of movies. Three of the most enduring titles in the rodeo genre include Junior Bonner, The Great American Cowboy, and 8 Seconds.
Junior Bonner (1972)
This movie stars silver screen legend Steve McQueen and was directed by acclaimed filmmaker Sam Peckinpah, whose other classic westerns include The Wild Bunch, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.
An explosive drama with comedic elements, Junior Bonner tells the story of Ace Bonner (Robert Preston), an aging patriarch who returns home years after abandoning his family. He finds his son Junior (McQueen) has grown up to become a reckless loose cannon. As Junior participates in a rodeo, a powder keg of family tensions finally erupts.
The Great American Cowboy (1973)
This acclaimed documentary gives viewers a rare and moving behind-the-scenes look at rodeo culture. Its narrative focuses on two fierce competitors: Larry Mahan, a veteran of the rodeo circuit, and Phil Lyne, a cocky young up-and-coming star. Over the course of the movie, Mahan and Lyne fight neck-and-neck for the chance to become a world champion.
The Great American Cowboy was directed by Kieth Merrill and won an Academy Award in 1973 for Best Documentary Feature.
8 Seconds (1994)
Luke Perry in a bull riding movie? That's exactly what viewers who watch 8 Seconds will get. Fans of the genre swear the formula worked like magic in this 1994 biographical drama.
The movie tells the life story of Lane Frost (Perry), who won the PRCA's world championship title in bull riding in 1987. Under the guidance and mentorship of his close friend and three-time world bull riding champion Tuff Hedeman (Stephen Baldwin), Frost overcomes personal challenges and a sometimes-difficult marriage to his wife Kellie (Cynthia Geary) to ride in the limelight. The film's title is a reference to the sport's eight second benchmark, which is the elapsed time a bullrider must reach in order to earn a score and a chance to win.
These titles stand out among the dozens in the genre, combining commercial success with critical acclaim and featuring some of the best-known screen performers of their time. Fans of the culture of the American West will enjoy the drama and spectacle that unfolds in these three remarkable motion pictures.