Popular country music blares from the speakers, punctuated by the announcer’s sharp-shooting drawl. Horse hooves kick up dust, a rope cracks in the summer air, and people cheer for their favorite roper, bull rider, or barrel racer.
This is the soundtrack of the fairgrounds in Jackson Hole — it’s a collection of sounds that’s steeped in history, delivering a Wild West nostalgia you might not have even known you missed.
Rodeo grew out of the cattle industry, so its connection to local ranching communities runs deep. As the cattle industry grew in Wyoming, so did the number of rodeos, especially in Cody — often called the rodeo capital of the world. William Frederick Cody, also known as Buffalo Bill, created the first major rodeo in 1882 and took it on tour as a Wild West show — an event meant to showcase the unique skills of cowboys and ranchers while celebrating the history and culture of the American West.
Today, rodeos carry on that tradition, and Jackson Hole is proud be a part of its rich heritage. The Jackson Hole Rodeo is a summer go-to, and the event’s barrel racing, calf roping, bull riding, and kids’ events ensure that both the fairgrounds and the fabric of traditional Western nightlife never falls quiet.
Although the Jackson Hole Rodeo is meant to be entertaining, don’t expect an act put on for tourists — it’s the real deal. Talented bull riders, horsemen, and horsewomen come from surrounding Wyoming ranching communities to showcase their artistry. The rodeo provides up-and-comers with the space to hone their skills before they go on to compete in larger events, and once a year, the newbies can sit back and watch the stars of the bull riding world compete in Jackson on the professional bull riding circuit. At the PBR-sponsored event, many of the competitors are local — Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho — and some got their start in smaller local shows and tours. When the pros climb on an angry bull and allow themselves to be thrown about, the rodeo soundtrack amps to a deafening roar as the audience screams and cheers.
Who knows, you might fall in love with rodeo — the love song of the Wild West.