For 80 years, the annual Old Fort Days Rodeo in Fort Smith has been entertaining rodeo enthusiasts with talented cowboys, high prize money and quality rodeo livestock. The fast paced action includes calf roping, barrel racing, wild horse racing, bareback riding, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, the Old Fort Days Dandies, and bull riding. It is held at Kay Rodgers Park this year on Saturday, May 3 – Saturday, May 31.
The Old Fort Days Rodeo was born out of the “Pawnee Bill Rodeo” which took place in 1933 near downtown Fort Smith. In 1934, R.K. Rodgers became the first rodeo chairman and headed the event off in the direction of what we find today. Pawnee Bill made several appearances in those early years and helped grow the rodeo’s popularity. Another hot attraction in those early days was Cowgirl Bronc Riding, an event you won’t see in today’s modern rodeos.
In 1942, Bert Harper and R.K Rodgers led the effort to purchase land known as the OG&E Electric Park on Midland Boulevard in Fort Smith. This showground later became known as Kay Rodgers Park, named after the visionary chairman who helped start the rodeo.
During World War II, some rodeo committee members questioned whether to continue the rodeo, but the early forward-thinking committee had a grand vision for the Old Fort Days Rodeo even though there were a few setbacks, such as a mighty Arkansas River flood and a World War.
That same spirit has helped transform the Old Fort Day Rodeo into one of the premier rodeo events in Arkansas. From the construction of a first class arena in 1949 (Harper Stadium – named after the late Bert Harper), to the multi-million dollar expansion of the current rodeo and fairgrounds, the Old Fort Days Rodeo has carried on the pride and tradition that its founders envisioned 80 years ago.
For more information, contact Kay Rodgers Park by calling 479-783-2393 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The website is www.oldfortdaysrodeo.com.