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RG0838.AM:  Burwell Rodeo (Burwell, Nebraska)

Ephemera:  1930-1980; mostly 1950s-1960s

Burwell, Garfield County, Nebraska

Size:  0.25 cu.ft.; 1 box


The Burwell Rodeo was founded in 1921 by Homer C. Stokes and the citizens of the town of Burwell, Garfield County, as a way of providing an entertainment that would be a reminder of frontier days and would highlight the uniquely western heritage of the town and the region. The first Burwell rodeo, called the Garfield County Frontier Fair and Rodeo, took place on September 28-29, 1921. After the financial success of the 1921 event, the community decided to establish an annual celebration. The first grandstands were built in 1922; subsequent years saw the addition of horticultural and fine arts displays, performances by Indians, horse races, a quarter horse show, and eventually the selection of a Rodeo Queen. The event is hosted by “Nebraska’s Big Rodeo” and runs for four days in August.

The regular events include: bare back bronc riding, bulldogging (also known as steer wrestling), bull riding, calf roping, saddle bronc riding, team roping, wild horse riding, cow girls’ bare back riding, and the cow girls’ flag race.

[For additional information on the history of the Burwell Rodeo, see Fifty Years of Nebraska’s Big Rodeo, published by the Rodeo Book Co., Burwell, Nebraska, 1975.]


This is a collection of publicity fliers, daily programs, lists of contestants, final results of various contests, judges’ notebooks, and miscellaneous handwritten records.  Most of the fliers and programs are from the 1950s and 1960s.


Box 1

Folder 1


a. Souvenir Program from August 12-15, 1953. The program includes a brief account of the origins of rodeo in America, descriptions of individual events (saddle bronc riding, Brahma bull riding, etc.), advertisements for local businesses, contest rules, and a rodeo dictionary.

b. A certificate from the Rodeo Cowboys Association affirming that Nebraska’s 28th Annual Big Rodeo, August 8-11, [1951], is an Approved Rodeo.

c. A photo copy of the cover and page 28 of The Spotlight, a news magazine published by the students of Burwell High School [no date]. Page 28 describes the Burwell Rodeo as “a Great Frontier Fiesta” and “The Greatest Roundup of Rodeo Talent in the Middle West.”

Folder 2 – Various publicity fliers for Nebraska’s Big Rodeo, ca. 1930-1980 (see also oversize)

Folder 3 – Official Daily Programs, including lists of contestants:

            Wednesday, August 8, 1951

            Saturday, August 11, 1951

            Wednesday, August 12, 1953

            Thursday, August 13, 1953

            Friday, August 14, 1953

            Saturday, August 15, 1953

Folder 4 – List of contestants in various events (1951)

Folder 5 – Typescript of final results in various events for August 1951: the listing includes the names of the contestants in each event, the points scored by each contestant, and the names of the judges.  Events listed:  saddle bronc riding, bare back bronc riding, bull riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, cow girls’ bare back bronc riding, cow girls’ flag race.

Folder 6 – Informal results of various events (handwritten records of the judges):  names of contestants, points scored in various rounds.  Events listed: bare back bronc riding, bronc riding, bull dogging, calf roping, cow girls’ bare back riding, cow girls’ flag race; champion cow boy standings.  [no dates]

Folder 7 – Judges’ notebooks: seven spiral-bound note pads and two spiral-bound notebooks containing handwritten records for individual events.  Five note pads are dated 1951; two note pads are dated 1947; the rest are undated.

Folder 8 – Miscellaneous hand-written notes dealing with points scored by contestants and fees paid.  [no dates]