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A View From The Attic


Week of  07/27/2015

     Fremont County Historical Society

Huge Honor for Iowa’s Championship Rodeo

By Lona Lewis
07/27/2015

The joke is you are only an expert, if you are fifty miles from home.  I think about this in the context that it is easy to overlook something when it is part of your daily life.  Another issue is how we tend to think history only happened a long time ago

R.W. Smith recognizing that Iowa’s Championship Rodeo was a history-making event, nominated it for the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs.  Our Rodeo was selected to be inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer.  Of all the Rodeos in the country only 25 have achieved this distinction.  The longevity of the Rodeo, quality family entertainment, and the quality of the contestants competing were major factors in this selection.

The basis for this honor began in 1923.  The folks in Fremont County and Sidney were looking for some fun and a way to keep the Old Soldiers Reunion going.  Early on the Tackett Brothers and Art Fritcher went to Wyoming and brought back horses to put on a show.  Today to make the trip, we would ride on interstates, sleep at motels and eat at restaurants.  Very little of that existed then so the trip itself was a feat. 

The first arena was cars in a circle . I can see folks gathered around the makeshift arena cheering on the riders, leaving that night talking about riding a bucking horse.

From that first year the Rodeo grew into an annual event with rules, events and prizes.  In the thirties, volunteers built a grandstand.  The first Rodeo Queen was selected by the Rodeo Board in 1937

World War II interrupted the Rodeo with no performances from 1943-1945.  I imagine weary soldiers yearning for home thinking about summer evenings at the Rodeo as a special memory.  The Rodeo flourished with the returning veterans. The drill team composed of veterans performed for several years. Other veterans stepped up to volunteer and what many consider to be the glory days of the Rodeo began.  New grandstands were built.  The Rodeo enjoyed the distinction of being one of the largest outdoor arenas in the country. 

The sixties and seventies was the age of entertainers performing for huge crowds. There were ten performances during the week.  A competitive contest was used to select the Rodeo queen.

This year, the Rodeo is celebrating its 92nd anniversary.  Audiences are still thrilling to all the events. The best Rodeo contestants still come to Sidney to earn the prize money needed to make them eligible to compete at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

In all of those 92 years, I doubt anyone has thought as they leave a performance “We were part of history.”   The folks in 1923 could not have begun to dream about TV stars performing here in Sidney. Those that built the grandstands probably never thought about the Rodeo’s place in history yet every year, every volunteer, every event all add up to be the history that has led to this great honor.

 Iowa’s Championship Rodeo Museum and Fremont County History Center celebrates this history. The Museum is open 1-4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. It is located just east of the square in Sidney at 609 Cass Street. Special hours for the Rodeo are 1-6 Tuesday-Saturday.

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