The rodeo in Burwell has been a part of the fabric of our state for 98 years. The rodeo features many events you might expect. "It has the standard rodeo events, like bare-back riding, saddle bronc riding, calf roping, bull riding, team roping," Burwell resident David Gideon said.
However, there are other events that make this rodeo stand out from the crowd. Long-time supporters of the rodeo say the wild horse show, the chariot races, and the chuck wagon race are why "Nebraska's Big Rodeo" is still unique among the rodeos around the country. They say the fact that this rodeo sticks with tradition.. is another drawing card for people who love rodeos and the West. "It's the Wild West show like it was," Gideon said. "In two years we are going to celebrate our 100th anniversary, and the arena has not changed, except the chutes two years ago were changed for the first time. There's no place else in Nebraska where you can go to a rodeo like this. They've got big rodeos, that include steel chutes, and everything is steel. It's all commercialized, and we just keep country."
Visitors from all over the world also find themselves drawn to the rodeo to experience something that is one-of-a-kind. The first big rodeo was held in September of 1921 in Burwell, and since that time, professional rodeo champions from far and wide have come here looking to win. "They are not just local boys that participate," Gideon said. "These are champions, and you can come here and see the same ones you've seen on TV or any other big show."
Guy Allen from Santa Ana, Texas is one of those champions. He's an 18-time world champion steer roper, who served as a Grand Marshal for the Burwell rodeo. He says it takes a lot of work to be a rodeo champion. "It's not easy," Allen said. "You are on your own. No one is telling you 'hey Guy, get up, you have to go practice'."
Allen says Burwell is a great place to compete. "The hospitality that's been here through the years that I've come has been really good. If you needed something they were 'johnny on the spot' to go get it for you."
You could certainly say that Nebraska's Big Rodeo has something for everyone. Family members can visit 4-H animals and exhibits, or get a sweet treat on the midway as the Garfield County Fair is underway. If you are feeling a little more adventurous, you can easily find a ride in a stock tank down the Calamus river at Calamus outfitters, or you might consider a visit to Fort Hartsuff State Historical Park just south of Burwell. There are also plenty of place to stay, too, including Air b-n-b's like the "Barefoot Bungalow" in town.
It's a community that loves rodeo, and the mission for residents in Burwell is to keep the tradition of Nebraska's Big Rodeo riding into the future.