Austin Rodeo upholds tradition, gives back to students


Danielle Villasana

A Rodeo Austin cowboy rides a bull at the Travis County Exposition Center during last year’s ProRodeo event, the world’s 5th largest indoor, regular season professional rodeo performance hosted by the rodeo, now in its 75th year.

Rachel Thompson

In 1938, 16 animals were featured in the Travis County Baby Beef Show at Congress Avenue and 11th Street.

Rodeo Austin has come a long way from its humble beginnings, but it hasn’t forgotten its roots, marketing manager Jennie Richmond said. This year, until March 24, Rodeo Austin is commemorating its 75th rodeo, complete with seven classic rodeo events, deep-fried red velvet Oreos and a coffee table book that Richmond said tells the story of the rodeo from the very beginning.

Richmond said the rodeo evolved from its founding in 1938 as a cow show to a larger event featuring rodeo competitions, petting zoos and a carnival. In 1983, the rodeo moved to the Travis County Exposition Center and featured Willie Nelson at its first gala in 1984, Richmond said.

With its long history in mind, Richmond said Rodeo Austin still managed to showcase fresh events this year, including its Super Shootout, which featured top rodeo contestants from across the nation competing individually and on teams.

Richmond said those involved with Rodeo Austin are particularly excited about the rodeo’s history book, titled “Rodeo Austin: Blue Ribbons, Buckin’ Broncs and Big Dreams,” by Austin author Liz Carmack, who Richmond says digs into the details of the rodeo’s past to tell as complete of a story as possible.

Eight hundred steers are set to compete in the Grand Champion Steer Selection, Richmond said, the pinnacle of the junior livestock show. To pay homage to the event’s history, she said, the selection will take place atop the stairs of the capitol, the original location of the 1938 Baby Beef Show.

Chemical engineering sophomore Dylan Guzy said this was her second time attending Rodeo Austin and she decided to bring along a few Aggies this year.

“My friends from A&M were in town and they wanted to go,” Guzy said. “I think it’s a good part of Austin to show them. I would definitely go back.”

For all its excellent animals, original fried foods and rich history, Rodeo Austin chief executive officer Bucky Lamb said the rodeo is primarily dedicated to giving back to the community and Texas students.

Richmond said money raised at the rodeo goes back to support the education of the youth of Texas, pursuing its goal of promoting western heritage and preserving education.

“This year, Rodeo Austin hopes to award $1.9 million to Texas youth,” Lamb said.

Philosophy junior Chloe Banks said she was involved in 4-H in high school and received a scholarship from Rodeo Austin. The scholarship has changed her college experience, she said.

“It has allowed me to join clubs and do things instead of having to worry about having a job and making money,” Banks said. “I joined Texas 4000, studied abroad in France and I have an internship with Rodeo Austin. It’s really allowed me to do other things besides school and work.”

Printed on Monday, March 19, 2012 as: Austin rodeo celebrates 75 years of tradition