Let’s talk about rodeo history and Kissimmee!
So what is a rodeo? Where did this sport come from? And what makes it so significant to our culture and history here in Osceola County?
Rodeo as we know it didn’t exist until the 1800s, but its roots in North America are traced back to the Spanish settling in California and becoming ranchers. The word “rodeo” comes from the Spanish word for roundup. Skills from the early Spanish vaqueros were eventually passed along to the American Cowboy after the civil war when the frontier territories were heavily expanding. The difference between American rodeo versus Spanish rodeo is that the American version focuses on speed while the Spanish version focuses on style.
For approximately 50 years in the late 1800s, Wild West Shows began traveling the eastern states. Rodeos today are an offspring of these early shows that featured great cowboys like Buffalo Bill Cody and Bill Pickett, who invented bulldogging. Wild West Shows were then introduced overseas, performing in England and Africa. Casey Tibbs took the Wild West Show to the World’s Fair in Brussels, Belgium, where cowboys in the shows were actually paid performers, unlike our modern day rodeos.
There is much speculation about where the first rodeo occurred in America. Several places around the US make the claim that theirs was first: Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1847; Deer Trail, Colorado in 1869; and Pecos, Texas in 1883. Most rodeos were free to attend, and the events varied greatly. Much of what we know today came from the Prescott, Arizona rodeo that took place on July 4, 1888. The rodeo committee there established a true following that is still present today.
The year 1974 marked the inception of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), the largest sanctioning rodeo organization with nearly 600 rodeos sanctioned yearly. Most PRCA rodeos today consist of the seven traditional rodeo events: bareback riding, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, team roping, tie-down roping, barrel racing, and bull riding. The PRCA is a membership-based organization with approximately 7,000 members.
Rodeos have been held here in Osceola County since the early 1900s. The local rodeo club, the Silver Spurs Riding Club, was formed in 1941, hosting their first rodeo in 1944. Over the years, this rodeo has been wildly successful in the community, becoming a staple event for local families to attend. Due to the success of the Silver Spurs Club and working with the PRCA, the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo, the second largest rodeo in the US, was moved to Kissimmee, Florida.
Although it may seem like the new kid on the block here in Kissimmee, the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo has simply added to the community’s long-standing rodeo traditions. The RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo (RAM NCFR) originated in 1975 when the PRCA developed a circuit system for rodeo contestants who were unable to be full-time cowboys. This gave them the opportunity to still compete in a sport they loved while tending to their homes, ranches, cattle businesses, etc. Today, with recent changes, the RAM NCFR gives these same contestants an actual shot at making it to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, the “Super Bowl” of rodeo!
If you haven’t made a trip to Kissimmee for either the local Silver Spurs Rodeo or the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo, we hope you’ll make plans to visit us soon!