In 1944, as a way to provide an entertaining distraction to the pressures of World War II, Thurman “Shorty” Parsons organized a rodeo during the Independence Day holiday. The participants were all local amateurs and the prize was simply bragging rights.
Today, 71 years later, the Rodeo of the Ozarks has become one of the country’s top outdoor professional rodeos associated with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
A lot has changed for the rodeo over the years, but one thing hasn’t: it is still held during the July 4th holiday, becoming a tradition for many families throughout northwest Arkansas, including Sach Oliver’s family.
“I grew up riding horses and being involved in rodeos, so, naturally, when we moved to northwest Arkansas, we were immediately attracted to the Rodeo of the Ozarks because of its rich heritage,” said Sach. “Now I’m a member of the Rodeo of the Ozarks Board and my whole family is involved.”
Rodeo of the Ozarks is a non-profit organization. Profits earned from the event are invested back into the community through donations to other non-profits, and that’s what makes the event special to Sach.
“The rodeo itself is so much fun and being a team roper I enjoy the competition, but what I enjoy most is our ability to help support so many organizations that do good work in our community every day,” Sach said. “So, it’s important for people to know that when they buy a ticket to the rodeo, they are also supporting worthy causes here at home.”
Every year, the rodeo features “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” Night to help draw attention to the fight against breast cancer. The cowboys and cowgirls all wear pink and members of the audience are encouraged to do so as well. A financial donation is also made on that night to the Susan B. Komen Foundation.
One of Sach’s favorite times during the rodeo is the “Super Cowboys and Cowgirls” event when children with physical and developmental disabilities have an opportunity to ride horses and interact with professional riders.
“I bring my horse, Chuckles, out for that event and I love it,” exclaimed Sach. “Chuckles is so gentle with the kids and it fills my heart with joy to see excitement on the faces of these children.”
The Rodeo of the Ozarks is not just any rodeo. It’s an event that impacts the community in many different ways – economic impact, social impact and charitable impact.
“The mission of the Rodeo of the Ozarks matches our mission at Bailey and Oliver which is to be a difference-maker,” said Sach. “That’s what this is all about and why we do it.”
The Shiloh Museum in Springdale, AR has an online exhibit titled Rodeo Days. Connect here to the Museum website to read more about the rodeo and scroll through some of their photos.