Summary: A visit to the Jackson Hole area would not be complete without spending an evening at the Jackson Hole Rodeo ($31/ticket). This former frontier town is deeply rooted in the Western rodeo culture and there's no better way to display this history, than attending the actual rodeo. The rodeo runs twice per week during the summer (Saturdays/Wednesdays) and features all the classic events including Bull Riding, Bronc Riding, Barrel Racing, and Team Roping. Being a former horseback rider, I had attended quite a few rodeos in my early years. So I can say, coming from experience, that this Rodeo is super fun for newbies and veterans alike.
Rodeo History. Even before Jackson was incorporated as a town, it had a rodeo. Dating back to at least 1911, this frontier town ran a rodeo, featuring a grandstand for spectators to enjoy the show. Over the years, the Rodeo has moved to different parts of the town and has been managed by more than one rodeo family. The current Rodeo is run by the Wilson Family, a six-generation Jackson-area family with deep rodeo ties, including competing in the National Finals Rodeo.
What You Should Bring and Not Bring. No outside food is permitted but the grounds have reasonably priced concessions, including beer (and White Claws, which we found hilariously fitting for this tourist destination). Evenings can get chilly. we visited in June and needed an extra layer by the end. Bleacher seats or something of a similar nature wouldn't be a bad idea either.
Tears First. Maybe it was the years away from horses and seeing those beautiful animals ride the arena, or maybe it was the thrill of our first crowd, post-pandemic, coupled with some good ol' patriotism, but during the opening American Flag ceremony, this writer admittedly got choked up.
Rodeo. After the opening ceremonies, the Rodeo jumped right into the first round of Bull Riding, followed by the other classic rodeo events of Bronc Riding, Barrell Racing, Team Roping and more. Competitors compete in the various divisions with the top slots earning cash purses.
Barrel Racing: A favorite. My favorite event, hands-down, is barrel racing. The object of the event is to run a cloverleaf pattern around 3 barrels in the fastest time. If the rider knocks over a barrel, a time penalty is added to their score. Perhaps because it was traditionally the only event permitted for women to participate, or perhaps because it's just a ton of fun, but watching this event never gets old for me.
That Western Experience. Since we live on the West Coast, it's hard to accept Wyoming as being a Western frontier town (ha ha), but in reality it was, in fact, pioneer country. Many of the Rodeo events are actually based on useful tools that ranchers used during those times. For example, the Team Roping event originated from ranchers safely capturing cattle to treat them for ailments or to tag or brand them. So in this way, watching a Rodeo gives you a glimpse into the area's history but in a fun, cowboy-up kind of way.
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