The History of America’s First Rodeo 1882-present
In a small Nebraska town rich with history, there is a rodeo that bears the name of one of the area’s most famous residents. Buffalo Bill Cody made his home in North Platte, NE, and just across the street from his former ranch is the focal point for Nebraska’s official state celebration, NEBRASKAland DAYS, and the famed Buffalo Bill Rodeo.
In the spring of 1882 the citizens of North Platte approached Col. William F. Cody about producing a 4th of July celebration for the community, and with that effort the sport known today as rodeo was born. This is no run-of-the-mill rodeo. Cody’s production of “The Old Glory Blow Out” included buffalo riding, roping and bronco riding. This later evolved into his Wild West Show that brought the real life action of the untamed West to thousands of spectators around the world.
The Buffalo Bill Rodeo is widely accepted as the world’s first spectator rodeo. The rodeo became sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) in 1947 and has remained one of the most popular stops on the rodeo tour ever since. World champion rodeo athletes, queens and celebrities frequent this venue for four days every June in North Platte, along with more than 16,000 spectators who annually flock from all corners of the world to experience the spectacle.
What keeps the likes of world champion rodeo competitors Billy Ebauer, Dustin Elliot, Sherry Cervi, and Trevor Brazile coming back? The purse for this event is the biggest of any outdoor venue in the state. Additionally, the competitors also know that when they show up in North Platte, they’ll be treated very well. Cowboys and cowgirls are part of an annual golf tournament with area businessmen, and competitors are also invited to participate in a bowling tournament prior to the rodeo each year. Then once the action begins and the money is on the line, award-winning livestock from the Beutler and Son Rodeo Company of Elk City, OK is there for the taking.
But there’s more to this rodeo than just money – there’s a tireless rodeo committee that has been recognized time and again by the PRCA for the outstanding rodeo production, award winning specialty acts and rodeo clowns, and two of the nation’s finest rodeo announcers that hold multiple world titles between them to call the action. In 2008 Buffalo Bill Rodeo Committee inducted into Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame. Any way you look at it, the Buffalo Bill Rodeo is world class.
Pageantry is also important here. Miss Rodeo Nebraska is crowned during the opening night of the rodeo. Queens from all across the nation, including Miss Rodeo America, annually attend this important event. Famous film and television celebrities are honored yearly for their contribution to western culture with the Buffalo Bill Award. The submarine crew of the USS Nebraska makes a yearly visit, as does our Nebraska Governor.
The Buffalo Bill Rodeo serves as the anchor event in the annual NEBRASKAland DAYS celebration and is in fact one of the main reasons the celebration was awarded to North Platte by the Nebraska legislature in 1968. The Celebration’s heart, and indeed its heritage, is based in the Buffalo Bill Rodeo. World champion cowboys, cowgirls and rodeo announcers, award winning specialty acts and rodeo clowns, and championship livestock brought together by an award winning committee keeps this event center stage in the high energy world of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.