La Fiesta de los Vaqueros
(Celebration of Cowboys)
Photo by: Louise Serpa
The Tucson Rodeo, also known as "La Fiesta de los Vaqueros" first started in 1925. It began as a three day event and competition. The first Tucson Rodeo was held during the time of the Prohibition. Leighton Kramer, president of the Arizona Polo Association came up with the idea to have a rodeo. This "fiesta" started as an idea to attract visitors and tourists to Tucson during the mid-winter season. The large amount of visitors that came to Tucson for the rodeo is what triggered the town to clean up it's act. Along with the rodeo, they also held a large parade. The first parade consisted of 300 people. The event was created to give visitors a taste of the world of cowboys and glamorize the Wild West. Local ranches were represented on horseback, mounted polo players wore their white helmets and bright silk shirts, and the 10th Cavalry and 25th Infantry bands provided great music. The leaders of the city and the University of Arizona declared this day, February 21, 1925, a city-wide holiday. The first Tucson rodeo was held at Kramer Field. The rodeo included four events, steer wrestling, steer tying, calf roping, and cattle bronc riding. The prize for winners was $6,650. As a result of rapid growth, La Fiesta de los Vaqueros moved to the abandoned municipal airport field. The 1932 Tucson Rodeo opened the grounds, with seating for 3,000 and parking for 59 cars. The festival grew to five days in 1993 and then involved a Women's Championship Rodeo in 2000. In 2004, the event added a PRCA sanctioned Bull Riding Competition. The Tucson Rodeo has featured a numerous amount of Western entertainers. The Tucson Rodeo know seats 11,000 people. The Tucson rodeo, being of idea climate and full grandstands, has set the scene for many well-known Western films including, "The Lusty Men" (1952), "Arena" (1954), and 8 seconds (1994). It also been featured on Showtime and ABC's Wide World of Sports. The prize money at the rodeo now exceeds $320,000 and is among the top 25 rodeos in North America. The Tucson Rodeo Committee was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 2008 for their large and notable contributions to the world of rodeo. They were also inducted into the Pima County Hall of Fame in 2006.
Tucson Rodeo Parade History
Each February since 1925, local Tucsonans and local groups prepare for the annual "Celebration of the Cowboys." The Tucson Rodeo Parade almost always begins at Park Ave. and Ajo Way and ends at The Tucson Rodeo Grounds. While this parade has been happening for many years, many of the locals were not too happy when it first started. They believed it to be too pretentious and some even thought that there shouldn't be a Tucson Rodeo let alone a parade to go along with it. The town back then was very peaceful and quiet with only dirt roads, hardly any street signs, and the town already was surrounded by ranches. Therefore, people thought there was no need to create a huge rodeo. While so many people were against the rodeo and parade in general, both were huge successes.
Photo by: Louise Serpa
Today, the event has expanded over nine days. The event now features cowboys from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association that have been world champions. The best of the best in pro rodeo appear at this prestigious event every year. It is the first outdoor rodeo of the season so competitors are excited and ready to give their best. The Tucson Rodeo is the world's longest non-motorized parade. It is two hours long and attracts 200,000 guests per year. The rodeo enlists over 650 contestants coming from the United States and Canada to compete for more than $460,000 in prize money. The events featured at the Tucson Rodeo include, bull riding, bareback and saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, tie-down roping, team roping and women’s barrel racing. Kids events are also a fun time for 4-6 year olds to test their rodeo skills. The Tucson Rodeo Committee and Tucson Rodeo Parade Committee, both volunteer-based, nonprofit community groups, put on La Fiesta de los Vaqueros. Proceeds from the Tucson Rodeo benefit a University of Arizona scholarship fund for student rodeo athletes, the Downtown Lion’s Club, Rotary Clubs and 4-H Groups.
- Over 1,000 horses participate in the Tucson Rodeo
- Over 2,000 cowboys hats are sold every year
- Tucson is the only metro area that closes it's schools during the week of the rodeo so that local can participate and enjoy the parade and the rodeo
- Tucson is the only outdoor rodeo from mid-September through early May among the top 25 PRCA rodeos.
- Bull riding and barrel racing are the favorite events