Fremont County, Iowa

Sidney Rodeo
by Lona Lewis

View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
Week of July 27th, 2009

Too often we loose perspective about the significance of something in our own back yard. Will Thomson lives in Iowa City and is one of Iowa’s premier museum designers. He came to Fremont County to work with the Historical Society on the Museum project. He arrived knowing very little about the Rodeo. After taking some time to learn about this area, his report highlights those facts and stories that are of interest when you take a fresh look. It also gives us perspective of what others would find interesting about an event that happens every year in our backyard. Below are quotes from his report.

“The Sidney Rodeo is a unique endeavor in Rodeo entertainment, having been managed and run successfully by the Williams-Jobe -Gibson Post #128 of the American legion, since its inception in 1923. Now in its 85th year of production, the Rodeo has only skipped 3 seasons since the beginning.

“The Soldiers Reunion, which started the event, had always featured speakers, ball games and carnival rides, but by 1923 was about to be discontinued. Then, when considering how to renew the event, Henry and Earl Tackett, recent arrivals in Sidney, from Wyoming; stepped forward to sponsor a Rodeo event. The town of Sidney had a spacious park; roping off the ball diamond and bringing in ornery stock from surrounding farms gave the Tackett brothers the arena and stock for a show, and they collected fifty dollars for providing four days of lively free entertainment.

“Since those early days, the Rodeo has evolved into a successful national Rodeo event, endorsed as an officially sanctioned PRCA (Professional Rode Cowboys of America) and WPRA (Women’s Professional Rodeo Association) event. Iowa’s Championship Rodeo was declared an official Sesquicentennial event in 1996, selected as the 1997 PRCA National Finals, Small Outdoor Rodeo of the Year.

“The Sidney Rodeo Grounds are a permanent installation. It has come a long way since the days of the roped-off ball field surrounded by Tin Lizzies.

“The Sidney Rodeo is not so much the result of technology, or science, where there would be a collected group of specimens or devices, nor is it deep in a large variety of objects; its value is a cultural tradition in Iowa and the nation’s folk-life. It has existed these eighty-five years an entertainment based on the traditions of the American Cowboy. Rodeo events are based on the practical skills developed while handling livestock on the open range of the 19th century. It evolved out of the 19th century entertainment form of the Wild West Show, where life ways of an earlier time in the West were exhibited and enacted with exciting realism to the public. The Wild West Shows proved that this principally outdoor and equestrian from of entertainment had popular appeal and when it began to die out the professional Rodeo replaced it.

“What can this tell us about the most important aspects to preserve and interpret in Fremont County’s new Rodeo Museum? Beyond the life of the American cowboy and cowgirl, the principle asset of the Rodeo is action; action preserved in images, films, photographs and the like, of that action taking place before the crowd.”

Will Thomson

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