San Antonio is many things: a vibrant cultural city; a growing technological center, and a sporting capital.  It’s also home to a wide variety of shows and contests that are based in the city’s Wild West roots.  The annual San Antonio Rodeo, started in 1950, has long been a favorite of residents of South Texas, and has grown in popularity such, that today over 1 million people attend each year.  In the 40s, the Joe and Harry Freeman Coliseum was built to house the rodeo and show, and served this capacity well until the AT&T Center (formerly known as the SBC Center) was opened in 2003.  Since then, the rodeo has been located in San Antonio’s most modern and comfortable sporting arena.

This year’s event will take place Jan. 31-Feb. 17, and tickets are available through Ticketmaster.

Although it’s called the San Antonio Rodeo, the event is certainly much more than that.  For over two weeks, visitors will enjoy horse shows, livestock shows, auctions, art contests, lots of amazing food and beverages, and, of course, all the favorite rodeo events.

For those who aren’t up to speed on all the events that a real rodeo features here’s a brief refresher.

  • Barrel Racing:  Times horse riding around a series of barrels.
  • Saddle Bronc Riding:  Cowboy versus unbroken horse.  The cowboy must hold on to the horse, as he thrashes around.
  • Bareback Bronc: Cowboy must hang onto a rigging strap of bucking horse.
  • Bull Riding:  The most dangerous of events. A cowboy must must hang on with only one hand to an angry bull for 8 seconds.
  • Tie-Down Roping:  A cowboy on a horse must throw a rope around a running calf, then dismount and tie three of the calf’s legs together.
  • Steer Wrestling:  The easiest event to understand, but much more difficult to execute.  The cowboy must jump off his horse, grab and wrestle a running steer to the ground in a timed event.
  • Team roping is an event that cowboys riding horses rope steers for time. The first roper is referred to as the header, the person who ropes the steer's head; the second is the heeler.

The livestock show featured judging of poultry, dairy cattle, beef cattle, Boer goats, Angora goats, breeding swine, heifers, and assorted other of Texas’ and the Unites States’ finest animals.

One of the rodeo’s most beloved events (especially by younger visitors) is Mutton Bustin’.  During this event, youngsters between the ages of 5 and 7 have the chance to see who can stay atop a running sheep for the longest time.  All participants receive gifts, and one winner will get a belt buckle to commemorate his victory.

Another favorite is the Xtreme Bulls bull riding competition.  This year’s event will be the 5th in a row, and will be aired on ESPN.  Not only will audience members get to see some of the best riders in the business show their mettle, but the night also features performances by some of the best musical acts in the country.  The event takes place on two nights—the opening Tuesday, and the last Saturday, so don’t miss out!{mosimage}

One aspect of the rodeo, and the Wild West, that is often overlooked, but helps perpetuate the mythology and lore of the life, images, and culture of Texas and the great outdoors, is the art these things inspire. The frontier life and Western Art still holds a powerful place in the annals of Americana, and the San Antonio Rodeo helps keep this spirit alive through its art exhibition, and Western Art Contest.  High school students from the area are invited to submit their work for judging by professional artists, and the top 25 have their works auctioned off, and the earnings are given to the students in the form of scholarships.  Other student-artists are invited to a three-week art workshop in Kerrville, TX, where they are able to hone their skills with professional artists as their mentors.

The rodeo also features a series of events that are not necessarily associated with rodeos and the West, such as golf tournaments, fashion shows, BBQ cookoffs, and a casino night, so there should certainly be something available for all tastes!  The rodeo is a family event, and children are encouraged to come, and even to take part in many of the events, so everyone is welcome!