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Nebraska’s Big Rodeo: A long history in Burwell

Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 10:11 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - The rodeo in Burwell has been taking place since 1921. It started without any grandstands, now, it’s a festival for the entire region.

We recently talked with Teresa Seidell, a rodeo spokesperson, about the event.

“The rodeo is July 28 through the 31 this year,” Seidell said. “Saturday night will be the big night.”

Turns out, the rodeo started small.

“There were no grandstands, it was just the rough dirt, and they didn’t even till up the soil,” Seidell said. “Back then, they had makeshift chutes, so when the rough stock bucked out, the riders landed on the dirt, so it was a hard landing for the riders. Today, our standards are that we work up the soil, and there is a nice bed for the horses and bucking stock to use.”

When you go to the rodeo in Burwell, you are going to feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

“That is what we are going for,” Seidell said. “Not the old-fashioned, but the traditional.”

The Burwell rodeo offers a number of unique features. For example, there is a track around the arena that allows for more entertainment.

“We have the wild horse race that everybody talks about,” Seidell said. “So between each PRCA event, we have an event on the track. The sky boxes and the crow’s nest were all constructed in 2010.”

The rodeo draws different reactions from different competitors.

“They are often surprised by the vastness of the arena,” Seidell said. “We have a really large arena, and many people are overwhelmed by that. Some contestants like it, some do not. The atmosphere here for everyone is uplifting. Everybody is excited to be here, and everyone is excited to have a celebration. Our town is excited to have a celebration. Half of the people will be from out of town, and the other half will be local people that just come out every night for the rodeo. It’s a festival for our town. We have the Calamus Lake, and that brings in a different clientele of people, but they all come in.”

The Burwell Rodeo is celebrating a “Century of Tradition” this year. Be sure to check it out!

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