The Rodeo of the Ozarks dates back to 1944 when it was started by a small group of individuals from Springdale led by Shorty Parsons. WW11 was in full swing, the locals were working like there was no tomorrow, and there was a need for relief and entertainment from the depressing news. And so we saw the birth of the Rodeo of the Ozarks. The rodeo was offered as a solution to a welcome break from the stress of the difficult times. Springdale had long been known as a town of true patriotism and the city park never failed to be decorated in a gaily manner on the Fourth of July. There were pie eating competitions, potato races, fiddler’s contests, and the town band performed.
Just the ticket
With the end of the war approaching, a feeling of relief was entirely justified and what better way than a rodeo to mark the celebration? Shorty was named promoter of the rodeo, but community sponsors were needed. Fortunately, the Chamber of Commerce and the Clarence E. Beely Post of the American Legion came forward and agreed to pay $50 for an area close to the sale barn. The dates had been put in his calendar: Sunday, July 1, Tuesday, July 3, and Wednesday, July 4. Luther Johnson, Kirby Beeler, and Walter Watkins managed a caravan that would travel to 11 local towns to spread the word about the rodeo. Hays Miller and Shelby Ford gave a talk at each of the stops. When it was time for the parade to come around, there was a Parade Marshall in place by the name of B.B. Brogdon. The parade features some 200 horses, as well as “Doc” Boone and the Hill-Billy Band. The Sunday show was rained off, so it was postponed until the Monday.
An unfortunate start
Nothing went right. On Wednesday, the bleachers on the north side collapsed, with 300 people ending up in the hospital, although fortunately there were no serious injuries. Glenn Harp from Springdale was named the winner of the challenging steer roping competition, which went without hitch. In 1946, the town was truly ready for the event called “Rodeo of the Ozarks”. Harry Williams was named managing director and Harp, arena director. The dates had been set: July 2-4. However, they wanted the rodeo to be professional and to put on a bigger event. While the Chamber of Commerce had agreed to offer support, it was less agreeable to any kind of financial risk. So, the event would again be saved by Shorty Parsons, who would be promoter and producer, taking on the risk of any loss.
Shorty borrowed some $29,000 for a permanent grandstand capable of holding 5,500 people. Subscription for parade prizes raised $42,500. The rodeo prize money was set at $2,000. Bob Sharp and Bryan Work managed ticket sales. They did so well that sales figures weren’t bettered until some 16 years later. The parade, which featured more than 600 horses, saw an attendance of 8,000 people. Performances sold out and the event made money. The rodeo was born.