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Mesquite Championship Rodeo

Mesquite

SO YOU MISSED THE BIG-TO-DO rodeos in Fort Worth and Houston this year. It’s okay to admit it. But, lest your Texas citizenship soon be revoked, you’ve still got a chance to hop in the saddle (in a manner of speaking): The Mesquite Championship Rodeo, arguably the world’s most famous weekly rodeo, opens its fiftieth season this month.

The MCR has made Mesquite—an unassuming town that loses most of its entertainment dollars to nearby Dallas—a national stop. And it hasn’t had to resort to strobe lights or George Strait concerts or elaborate midways. Nope, here it’s actually about the cowboys and cowgirls who ride and steer-wrestle and barrel-race every Friday and Saturday night. A strong showing at the MCR is imperative for up-and-comers in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association; with a trip to the Las Vegas national finals on the line, these young bucks don’t hold back. The lighter offerings also draw plenty of crowds: Cowboy poker alleviates some of the arena’s intensity, for one (last person sitting at the table after a Mexican fighting bull is released wins the $400 pot), and kids get their own time in the dirt during the calf scramble and the mutton bustin’ (that’s sheep riding, for all you city slickers).

Unlike its larger counterparts, the MCR hasn’t always been a stepping-stone on the circuit. In fact, in 1958, when Neal Gay and five of his buddies decided to launch a rodeo that stayed put—not, in other words, a traveling tour—few thought it would succeed. Livestock had to be borrowed, the uncovered arena turned to muck when it rained, and the men lost $13,000 in the

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