Buckle up, Buttercup: The 2018 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association season is hitting its summer stride with enough rodeo action for every cowboy and cowgirl in the United States. More than 600 rodeos—including 85 in Texas alone—comprise the PRCA season, which spikes from June to September.
Along the way and in the ring, surprises are a given, but you can count on jaw-dropping speed, accuracy, and bravery as rodeo athletes ride and rope in hopes of being the fastest, or scoring the highest, in such events as barrel racing, steer wrestling, and bareback bronc riding. Often adding to the Western fun are rodeo clowns, parades, cute kids in mutton bustin’ competitions, carnivals, honky tonk dances, cook-offs, livestock shows, and live music, from country to hip hop.
Luckily for Texans, the Lone Star State is a rodeo mecca, with huge events like the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo as well as smaller gatherings with plenty of local flavor, such as the XIT Rodeo & Reunion in Dalhart, and the Crosby, Texas Fair and Rodeo.
Many high-ranked contestants boast a celebrity-caliber number of social media followers, which matches rodeo’s increasing popularity. In addition to hitting the big-time events, such as the Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming, these stars often show up at small venues, allowing spectators to see a top-ranked athlete like a steer roper fly out of the box close-up.
Look for especially intense competition during “Cowboy Christmas,” which takes place around the 4th of July. A number of rodeos held over Independence Day offer tens of thousands of dollars in prizes, encouraging some competitors to even hit two rodeos in one day in order to make serious bank, and to propel themselves to the finals.
Pro competitors on the rodeo circuit are racing toward the September 30 end-of-season cutoff when their monetary winnings for the year determine their eligibility for PRCA’s 10-day Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR). Contestants qualify by winning the most earnings in their competitions.
Known as the “Super Bowl of Rodeo,” WNFR is the culmination of the PRCA season, which runs from October 1 to September 30 every year. The WNFR has sold out some 16,000 spectator seats for its entire run in Las Vegas for more than 30 years. —Anne Heinen