Q: Austin, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio each have big annual rodeos. So why doesn’t Dallas have a big to-do, too? 

A: Texas is rodeo country. In fact, as was so declared by the 75th state legislature in 1997, rodeo is our official sport. “Whereas, Texas is blessed with a rich and colorful history, and no event captures the unique spirit of the Lone Star State better than rodeo,” the resolution  reads. The document then goes on to give a capsule history of the sport, which, of course, dates back to the introduction of horses and cattle—two of rodeo’s main ingredients—by the Spanish at the turn of the eighteenth century, when conquistadores and vaqueros honed their equestrian skills out on the Texas range. 

The Lone Star State is not, however, the only state to claim rodeo as its official sport. South Dakota and Wyoming do, too. (The Texanist’s research on the matter has also revealed that the official sport in Maryland is jousting, a fact that is completely irrelevant to the task at hand, but one that is none the less sort of interesting.)

However, in lieu of a long digression on the Old Line State’s curious official sport of choice, the Texanist will instead point out that the forementioned resolution also makes reference to “internationally known rodeos in Houston, Fort Worth, and San Antonio, as well as a countless others across the state,” official confirmation, if any was needed, that Dallas is indeed without a big-time rodeo. 

Now that the Texanist thinks about it, he does find this is a little odd, especially given that Dallas was once home to the granddaddy of all rodeos, the National Finals Rodeo, the premier event put on by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Way back in 1959, the PRCA held its inaugural NFR at Fair Park Coliseum during that year’s State Fair of Texas. Alas, by 1962 the “Super Bowl of Rodeo,” as the event has come to be known, had moved on, first to Los Angeles, California, then to Oklahoma City, and finally to Las Vegas, where it has made its  home since 1985. Dallas did attempt to get the NFR back about ten years ago, but ultimately failed. Though, in 2020 strict health restrictions in Nevada brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic spurred the NFR’s return to North Texas, with Arlington hosting. And though an upstart association, Elite Rodeo Athletes, made a go in 2016, hosting its finals at the American Airlines Center that year, the outfit soon after went under.

So why didn’t anything replace the original National Finals run in Dallas? The Texanist contacted the folks at Visit Dallas, the former Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, to see what they thought. But Zane Harrington, Visit Dallas’ director of communications, who reached out to his own colleagues as well as the Dallas Sports Commission, was unable offer a precise reason for why the city doesn’t host an annual rodeo that is, as they say, as big as Dallas.

“But one thought did come to mind,” Harrington said. “Throughout North Texas, there is a very large supply of rodeos—in Mesquite, Arlington, and Fort Worth–which could theoretically diminish the demand to have one in Dallas proper.” Harrington was speaking of Arlington’s American Rodeo, which takes place in early March Fort Worth’s Stock Show & Rodeo, which has been going strong since 1896 and just recently wrapped up; and Dallas suburb Mesquite’s, Mesquite Championship Rodeo, which runs every June through August. (Mesquite, in fact, calls itself the “Rodeo Capital of Texas.”) And it does, in fact, seem likely to the Texanist that this plethora of North Texas rodeo action might well help explain Dallas’s dearth.

But while Dallas is not currently home to a big annual rodeo in the vein of Austin’s, Fort Worth’s, Houston’s, and San Antonio’s, it’s not actually completely devoid of rodeo action. The State Fair of Texas brought back its rodeo in 2021, an experiment that was so well received that the action returned in 2022 and 2023. “Bringing rodeo back to the historic Fair Park Coliseum restored a piece of tradition in the fair’s rich history with the sport,” said Daryl Real, the State Fair of Texas’s senior vice president of agriculture and livestock. “Several types of rodeo events are showcased, with everything from bull bucking and ranch sorting to festive cultural celebrations like the Mexican Rodeo Fiesta and Cowboys of Color Rodeo,” Real said. “We’re excited it will be back again for 2024.”

Additionally, Dallas’s African American Museum hosts the annual Texas Black Invitational Rodeo, which will celebrate its 35th anniversary this July, also at Fair Park Coliseum. So, while Dallas may not do rodeo like some of Texas’s other big cities do rodeo, it is not completely without the beloved dusty doings that compose our state sport. The Texanist will see y’all at the rodeo!

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