This is not our first rodeo | Opinion

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Barrel racing, sheep hunting, and bull riding are just a few of the many events you can witness at one of Texas’ many rodeos. Recognized as the official sport of Texas, the history of rodeos in the Lone Star State goes back much further than its official proclamation by the Texas Legislature 25 years ago.

The Spanish conquistadors and early Spanish-Mexican settlers who arrived in Texas came with horses and cattle, kicking off our state’s rich and deep roots in the ranching industry. This new livestock led to the rise of herders and vaqueros, or cowboys. After the Civil War, the Southwest became the hub of cattle drives, large ranches, and grazing cowboys that are now mainstays of the famous culture we know today.

While tending their pastures and driving cattle, these cowboys earned their spurs by learning to rope, ride, and beat cattle. These tricks of the trade traveled across Texas, and cowboys showcased these skills at local rodeos. The word “rodeo” comes from a Spanish word meaning “rounding up,” an extremely important activity where ranchers round up their cattle to brand new calves or move them to new pastures.

The first official rodeo was held in 1883 in Pecos, Texas. The Pecos Rodeo began as a competition for bragging rights between two cowboys who competed to see who was the best in Texas. 140 years later, this renowned rodeo continues today and attracts serious competitors.

As more cowboys were crowned rodeo champions across the Lone Star State and the country, a unified effort to seize the reins and hold official competitions began. In 1936, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association established official rules to formalize the sport nationally. In 1948, a determined group of women gathered in San Angelo, Texas with a mission to step into the ring and form the Girls Rodeo Association, now known as the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association. The Association became the first women’s sports organization in the United States and still remains the oldest women’s professional sports organization in the country. These visionaries presented themselves as pioneers for women in the rodeo arena. Today, the Association is the only rodeo organization run entirely by women and works year-round to organize competitions across the country.

No one deserves the belt buckle of grand champion more than Mesquite, Texas. Because Mesquite hosts the most rodeos in our state, the Texas Legislature declared Mesquite the official rodeo capital of Texas in 1993. For over 60 years, the Mesquite Championship Rodeo has been the epitome of the rodeo experience with many events such as the bronc saddle and the rope team. This rodeo has been one of the most watched on television to date, with over 8 million households tuning in to the events.

Following the trails south of Mesquite, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo always draws large crowds. Previously known as the Houston Fat Stock Show and Livestock Exposition, this rodeo began in 1931 at the Texas State Hotel with the goal of developing the region’s beef industry. Over 90 years later, this event has moved to the Astrodome, and it now takes place at nearby NRG Stadium which was built specifically for rodeo and the NFL. Cowboys and rodeo enthusiasts of all ages can enjoy the annual throwing rodeo parade, trail rides and concerts of various musical genres. Country king George Strait even made his Houston Rodeo debut as a newcomer to the country music scene in 1983.

This year I had the honor of riding a horse named Cinch and participating in the Houston Rodeo Kickoff Parade, as I have often done in the past. Along with living my John Wayne dreams, it’s a great opportunity to visit Texans who support this great tradition that marks the start of the three-week event with the help of more than 35,000 volunteers. The Houston Rodeo also awards more than $14 million to the bright minds of our state’s cowboy and cowgirl students, including $1.4 million for Texas 4-H scholarships.

No matter you take part in the stock show and rodeo events or just want to ride a horse, I hope you find a chance to argue with your friends and family and inspire them to go to the rodeo locally this year.

Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, is a member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence and Justice Committees.

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