Ropin’ and Ridin’

Written By: Donna Harris

From its roping contest roots to the modern family-friendly entertainment of today, the call of the rodeo is hard to resist

Whether it’s your first rodeo or your fifty-first, there is just something about watching a rodeo in action from the dusty stands. And if you have little ones in tow, then rodeos may just be the perfect way to get the kids off their iPads and into the real-life moment. Many rodeos cater to families with kid-friendly events like tractor pulls, pig races, mutton bustin’ and pony rides. Parents who are seeking family-oriented activities this summer can’t go wrong by taking the kids to one of the many rodeos that will be visiting North Georgia through Labor Day. So, grab your cowboy hat, and let’s get cracking. 

A Cowboy’s Calling

Rodeo, from the Spanish word rodear meaning “to encircle,” is a sport involving a series of riding and roping contests derived from the working skills of 19th century American cowboys and their Spanish-Mexican ancestors to support the open-range cattle industry in North America. Cowboys would gather during seasonal roundups or at the end of cattle-driving trails and compete for unofficial titles such as best bucking-horse rider and best roper.

When fences marked the end of the Open Range era and the cowboys’ occupation was curtailed by the railroads, those contests turned into official forms of entertainment. Many locations claim to be the home of the first rodeo in the United States — including Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 1872, and Winfield, Kansas, in 1882 — but these early contests were simply riding and roping exhibitions, not the extremely organized shows into which the modern rodeo evolved.

In the 1880s, a number of Wild West shows began presenting “cowboy tournaments” across the country, combining western open-range practices with sporting performance. Prescott, Arizona Territory, held the first rodeo on July 4, 1888. 

Managed by promoters, contractors and civic-minded committees, rodeo emerged as a legitimate independent sport by 1910, and in 1929, the Rodeo Association of America was formed by rodeo managers and producers to regulate the sport. The contestants got involved in the management by forming their own organization in 1936. That group was renamed the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) in 1975, and its rules became accepted by most rodeos.

After World War II, rodeo experienced an explosion in venues, monetary rewards, spectator attendance and national publicity. By 2001, 600 PRCA-sanctioned rodeos were being held each year in 40 states. The top-ranking, highly paid contestants strive to qualify for the National Finals and to win the world all-around champion cowboy title, bestowed on the PRCA participant earning the most prize money in a year.

Eight Seconds

Contemporary rodeos typically include five main events: saddle bronc riding and calf roping, which represent the practical range work of the 19th century cowboy, and bareback bronc riding, steer wrestling and bull riding — feats of cowboy daring that began appearing during the early 20th century. Most prominent rodeos also feature women’s barrel racing and team steer roping as regular program events. 

The saddle bronc-riding, bareback bronc-riding and bull-riding competitions generally are classified as judged, or “rough-stock,” events, while steer wrestling, calf roping, team roping, barrel racing and steer roping are timed events.

Several rodeos will make their way to north Georgia during the next three months, including the 2024 PBR (Professional Bull Riders) Camping World Team Series, coming to Gas South Arena in Duluth July 26 at 7:45 p.m., July 27 at 6:45 p.m. and July 28 at 1:45 p.m. 

PBR was established in 1992 when 20 bull riders pooled their resources and broke away from the typical rodeo format to make bull riding, the most popular of the seven traditional rodeo events, a standalone sport. Declared the fastest-growing sport in the country, PBR pits the world’s best bull-riding athletes against the toughest animal athletes in an 8-second man-versus-beast battle. The cowboys compete against each other to claim the PBR World Champion title at the end of the year. 

In June 2022, the organization launched PBR Team Series, a new league with eight founding teams playing a 10-weekend regular season that culminates in a team playoff and the championship. Each team hosts an annual bull-riding event in its home market and participates in two events at neutral sites. At the end of the 2023 season, the league expanded to 10 teams and 12 events.

“PBR Teams is the most successful sports league launch in the past 25 years, and we’ve expanded from eight to 10 teams heading into our third season,” said PBR CEO/Commissioner Sean Gleason. “For about three decades, PBR was an individual sport winning fans one at a time, including successful events in Duluth. With teams complementing individual competition, we’re more engaging to the casual fan and easier for sports media to cover. Teams give fans another reason to follow the sport. Rivalries are forming. PBR is a thrilling sport, and the energy in the building during 5-on-5 bull-riding games is now even more intense.”

For information on PBR Teams: Duluth, visit

Rodeo Round-Up

Other rodeos coming to north Georgia this summer include: 

Patriot Days Rodeo, June 7 – 8, 8 p.m., Cedar Creek Arena, 131 Cedar Lane Drive, Canon

The 13th annual Blairsville Professional Rodeo, June 21 – 22, 8 – 10 p.m., Union County Saddle Club, 73 Saddle Club Drive, Blairsville. Bareback bronc riding, saddleback bronc riding, steer wrestling, team roping, tie-down roping, cowgirl breakaway roping, cowgirl barrel racing and bull riding. For spectators, steer dressing competition, Gold Rush, calf scramble, pony rides and a mechanical bull.

Phillips Championship Rodeo, June 21 – 22, 8 p.m., 475 Mount Zion Road, Resaca. Bronc riding, tie-down roping, women’s breakaway roping, women’s barrel racing, steer wrestling, team roping and bull riding. Mechanical bull and pony rides for the kids.

Rabun Arena Rodeo, July 5 – 6, 8 p.m., Rabun Arena, 100 E. Boggs Mountain Road, Tiger.

Bartow County Championship Rodeo, July 12 – 13, 8 p.m., 43 Saddle Club Drive, Cartersville. Bronc riding, tie-down roping, women’s breakaway roping, women’s barrel racing, steer wrestling, team roping and bull riding. Mechanical bull and pony rides for the kids.

The 17th annual Canton Explorers’ Rodeo, July 26 – 27, 8 p.m., Boling Park, 1200 Marietta Highway, Canton. Bull riding, calf roping, cowgirls’ barrel racing, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling and team roping.

The 7th annual Rodeo Rome, Aug. 9 – 10, 8 p.m., Coosa Valley Fairgrounds, 1400 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Rome.

The 28th annual Blue Ridge Kiwanis Club Rodeo, Aug. 16 – 17, 8 – 11 p.m., Kiwanis Fairgrounds, 124 Jones St., Blue Ridge. Bronc riding, calf roping, bull riding, bareback riding, team roping, steer wrestling, barrel racing, women’s breakaway roping and calf scrambles.

IPRA World Championship Rodeo, Aug. 30 – 31, 8 p.m., and Sept. 1, 7 p.m., Cumming Fairgrounds, 235 Castleberry Road, Cumming. Bull riding, bareback riding, barrel racing, cowgirl breakaway roping, calf roping, steer wrestling, team roping and saddle bronc riding.

Hiawassee Pro Rodeo, Aug. 31 – Sept. 1, 8 – 11 p.m., Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds, 1311 Music Hall Road, Hiawassee.

Ellijay Stampede Pro Rodeo, Sept. 2 – 3 (estimated), 7:30 p.m., Gilmer County Saddle Club, 1727 S. Main St.,


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