Football may seem like the lifeblood of Texas, but it's surprisingly not actually the official state sport. In fact, that honor goes to rodeo. When spring rolls around, over 2 million people head to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, while over 200,000 visitors enjoy Rodeo Austin.
Both of these big-time events have come and gone for 2019, but small towns around the state are lassoing up their own rodeos for the summer season. Break out those boots and take a road trip to one of these lesser-known rodeos.
Mesquite Championship Rodeo — 3 hours from Austin
What better place to enjoy the fun of rodeo than in the Rodeo Capital of Texas itself? That would be Mesquite, Texas, just 20 minutes east of Dallas. The Mesquite Championship Rodeo at the Mesquite Arena runs June 1-August 24 and kicks off opening day with musical guest Mark Chesnutt. Every Saturday there’s an interactive fan experience from 6-7 pm and then a different event at 7:30 pm. Spectators will get the chance to see competitors from around the country compete in bull riding, steer wrestling, bareback bronc riding, saddleback bronc riding, barrel racing, tie-down roping, and team roping. Then, the whole rodeo wraps up with a close-out concert by Clay Walker.
Nearby attractions: While you’re enjoying the state’s rodeo capital, consider embracing another one of Mesquite’s titles as a designated Tree City USA by the National Arbor Foundation with a trip to Trinity Forest Adventure Park. The park is less than 15 minutes from the rodeo and gives visitors the chance to tackle high ropes courses and obstacles of varying difficulty levels amid the treetops.
Big Spring Cowboy Reunion and Rodeo — 5 hours from Austin
Located between Midland and Abilene is the city of Big Spring, which holds its annual rodeo June 20-22 this year. The events include bareback bronc riding, barrels, bull riding, calf roping, mutton bustin’, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, and team roping. On top of the rodeo sport festivities, you can catch Jason Boland & the Stragglers perform on Friday evening and Wade Bowen on Saturday night.
Nearby attractions: Big Spring has two local museums: Heritage Museum of Big Spring and Hangar 25 Air Museum. The former is all about the local history of the city, as well as West Texas. The latter is in a restored World War II hangar and showcases the history of the Big Spring Army Air Force Bombardier School and Webb Air Force Base, where thousands of pilots were trained.
West of the Pecos Rodeo — 6 hours from Austin
The city of Pecos, about an hour west of Odessa, makes the big claim of being home to the world’s first rodeo. Pecos' rodeo dates back to July 4, 1883, when Trav Windham and Morg Livingston went head-to-head in a competition to determine who was truly the best roper. Running June 23-29, see top-notch cowboys show off their skills at Buck Jackson Arena for the weeklong event. Along with beloved rodeo events like bull riding and steer wrestling, there are also special events like the hide race, wild cow milking, and kids’ boot scramble. Keep the fun going after the rodeo by popping over to the Sheriff’s Posse Barn event venue for a nightly dance from 9 pm to 2 am with music by the Abe Mac Band, Chad Cooke Band, and The Electric Cowboys.
Nearby attractions: While visiting the rodeo, walk five minutes down the road and grab a meal at Pody’s BBQ, a restaurant named one of the best barbecue joints in Texas (and effectively, the world) by Texas Monthly. Continue in the spirit of the rodeo and check out the Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame, which honors the people who helped make the event history, or explore the history of West Texas at the West of the Pecos Museum.