A Unique Cultural Experience: How We Rodeo in Central Florida
When you think of Central Florida, you probably don’t picture a rodeo. But there are several different rodeos that take place across the region, most with significant historical roots in their communities. So what makes each one unique? If you’re a Central Floridian who follows the sport of rodeo, you may already know the answer to these questions. But if you’re less familiar with the sport of rodeo, we’d like to help educate and highlight a few rodeos in Central Florida and their unique qualities.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo, or RNCFR. In 1975, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) created a system that broke up the United States into 12 geographical circuits. Each circuit hosts a finals rodeo annually. From these 12 finals, the top two contestants who win in each event get to advance to the RNCFR. For its first 24 years, the rodeo was hosted in Pocatello, Idaho. The RNCFR moved from Oklahoma City, to Guthrie, Oklahoma in 2014, and then to Kissimmee, Florida in 2015, where it will remain through at least 2024.
Here are a few things you can expect to see at the RNCFR that you may not witness at any other rodeo in Central Florida:
- The purse is $1 million dollars in cash and prizes, which is up to four times more than other rodeos hosted in Central Florida.
- The livestock brought to this rodeo, from up to 18 different stock contractors, are considered to be the “top stock” voted on from across the country. These stock contractors must bid to participate, then they are voted on by the RNCFR committee. The RNCFR and the Wrangler National Finals (WNFR) are the only two rodeos that showcase this much top livestock in one place.
- The contestants that qualify for the RNCFR have already taken home champion titles at their circuit finals rodeos. These contestants come to Kissimmee excited to represent their circuits and hometowns. For many contestants, this is the largest rodeo that they will compete in during their rodeo careers.
- At the RNCFR, you’ll see all seven major rodeo events. It is a two-hour, action-packed production of rodeo that kicks off with pyro and ends when the last bull bucks. This national championship rodeo takes place once a year. The next RNCFR will be held April 6-9, 2017 at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee.
The Silver Spurs Riding Club was formed in Osceola County in May 1941. In 1944, Silver Spurs hosted its first full rodeo. The club, a non-profit organization, has over 350 volunteer-members and only one full-time employee. You can expect to see the Silver Spurs Rodeo two times a year, in February and June, at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee.
- Today, the Silver Spurs Rodeo is the largest rodeo East of the Mississippi. This local rodeo features the traditional seven rodeo events, a specialty act, and a kids calf scramble. Though it is a local rodeo, due to the significant purse amount, contestants will travel from across the US to compete. Typically, you can expect to see the best contestants that are primarily local to this region.
- Unlike the RNCFR, the Silver Spurs Club produces its own livestock. Sometimes they hire a secondary stock contractor, too, but it’s usually never more than two stock contractors total.
- Contestants at the Silver Spurs Rodeo will only compete in one go-round, meaning you will only see each contestant perform once, even if the rodeo happens to be a three-day event. After each day of competition, all scores or times get tabulated, then winners are announced.
- Fun fact: The RNCFR and the Silver Spurs Rodeo take place inside the same arena!
Established in 1952, the Arcadia-All Florida Championship Rodeo is a non-profit organization that evolved from members of the American Legion who held their first rodeo in 1929. From its pioneer days, it has grown over the years, changing from what used to be simply cowboys and ranchers showing off their talents for entertainment to the locals to a championship rodeo. In 1973, the Arcadia-All Florida Championship Rodeo joined the ranks of the PRCA. This rodeo is hosted annually, typically in March.
- This rodeo is the oldest rodeo organization in the state of Florida. This rodeo event impacts not just Arcadia economically, but also all of Desoto County.
- This rodeo committee contracts the best stock contractors in the PRCA to compete at its rodeo. They will bring as many as eight semi-trailer truck loads of livestock to Arcadia for four days of competition. Unlike the RNCFR, you will only see livestock from the First Frontier Company, Klein Brothers Rodeo, and Silver Creek Rodeo.
- Contestants compete for a purse of approximately $100,000. Coming soon, this rodeo will have a new home in the $6 million dollar Mosaic Arena!
- In Arcadia, they draw an audience of approximately 17,000 rodeo fans. Hosted in a spacious outdoor arena, they have continued to grow into one of the largest rodeos in Florida.
The Lakeland Pro Rodeo Classic is held in Lakeland, Florida. This rodeo was sanctioned by the PRCA approximately 11 years ago. Typically, this rodeo is held once a year in January at the Lakeland Center.
- At the Lakeland Pro Rodeo Classic you can witness a wonderful event put on by Mason Pro Rodeo Productions.
- You can watch all seven traditional rodeo events and some great specialty acts. One of their specialty acts has been the world famous Gator Boys!
- The stock provided for this rodeo comes from 4L and Diamond S Rodeo.
- This event takes place at an indoor arena that holds approximately 7,000 spectators. You can expect for it to be sold out for nearly every performance!
Okeechobee Cattlemen’s Spring Rodeo
The Okeechobee Cattleman’s Spring Rodeo debuted in Okeechobee, Florida in 1983. This rodeo, hosted by the local Cattlemen’s Association, has a great reputation in the community.
- The Okeechobee Cattlemen’s Spring Rodeo is held in March in an outdoor arena.
- The total value for the purse in Okeechobee is approximately $40,000. Fans at this rodeo can do the calf scramble, see great specialty acts such as Wild Child, and attend the local fair that goes on at the same time!
- The livestock for this rodeo is provided by two contractors, the Silver Spurs Club and 5 Star Rodeo. Usually, the Silver Spurs Club provides the rough stock, and the cattle is provided by 5 Star.
- Contestants that attend this rodeo are generally local, and they enter to compete in all seven rodeo events.
- Different from the RNCFR, but similar to the Silver Spurs Rodeo, Lakeland and Arcadia contestants compete in just one go-round even though the event is three days long.
No matter which rodeo you attend in Central Florida, one thing is certain. Our rodeos here draw our communities together. It is one of the rare events that can still do this today. Rodeo contestants and fans travel far and wide to get to Central Florida rodeos each year to witness their favorite. We hope that if you have never experienced a rodeo before that you will visit one soon in our neck of the woods!