Payson Rodeo - The World's Oldest Continuous Rodeo

The 121st Payson Rodeo in 2005

TripSavvy / Judy Hedding 

The Payson Rodeo began in 1884 when it was known as the "August Doin's." It has the distinction of being the oldest continuous rodeo anywhere. As if three days of rodeo wasn't enough, rodeo weekend in Payson, Arizona incorporates much more than the official rodeo events. There's a wonderful parade on Saturday morning, lots of music, dancing, and libations in the evenings, and other special neighborhood events.

01 of 09

Steer Wrestling

Payson Rodeo
©Judy Hedding

In steer wrestling, the cowboy tries to drop from his horse, grab the steer by the horns, and get it on the ground, on its side. This is a timed event, where the technique of getting in the right position before jumping off the horse, and the strength involved in the swift motion necessary to get the steer wrestled to the ground, make the challenge.

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02 of 09

Barrel Racing

Payson Rodeo
©Judy Hedding

Barrel racing is a popular event at the Payson Rodeo. Here the women compete in a timed event, having to quickly maneuver their horses around tight turns, and then sprint off to the finish line. There's no roping or wrestling involved in this event, just technique and athleticism on the part of both the rider and the horse.

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03 of 09

Tie Down Roping

Payson Rodeo
©Judy Hedding

In tie down roping, a calf is released, and a cowboy on his horse takes off out of the chute. The cowboy has to rope the calf, dismount, get the calf on its side, and tie any three legs together. This is a timed event, where the horse also plays an important role in keeping the rope taught so the cowboy can grab the calf.

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04 of 09

Entertaining Horsemanship

Payson Rodeo
©Judy Hedding

In between events at the Payson Rodeo, while animals are being readied and cowboys are preparing for their events, there are various types of entertainment that the spectators enjoy: rodeo clowns, horsemanship acts, rodeo queens, and more. Pictured here, a professional cowboy entertained the crowd with difficult feats involving two horses. Well done!

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05 of 09

Saddle Bronc Riding

Payson Rodeo
©Judy Hedding

A cowboy in the saddle bronc riding event mounts the bronc in a particular position, and is then released from the chute. Style and time both count as judges award points to the cowboys who stay on the bronc for at least 8 seconds.

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06 of 09

Shopping and Food

Payson Rodeo
©Judy Hedding

You can work up a thirst and a hunger watching all these cowboys and cowgirls at the Payson Rodeo work hard for their prize money. Refreshments are available at the Payson Event Center and are reasonably priced. There are also gifts and souvenirs available--if you came from the big city, and didn't come prepared to look like you know what's going on here, you can at least purchase a cowboy hat!

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07 of 09

Mutton Bustin' for Kids

Payson Rodeo
©Judy Hedding

One of the most popular events is the one where the little kids participate in the Payson Rodeo. Donning protective helmets, these kids ride sheep bareback, and try to stay on when released from the chute.

This little guy did it the hard way, but got the job done. Those little cowboys and cowgirls were so cute!

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08 of 09

Bull Riding

Payson Rodeo
©Judy Hedding

Bull riding is very popular at the Payson Rodeo; I think people love to see a cowboy conquer a huge beast! In this event, the cowboy tries to ride a bull, and is judged not only on how well and how long he stays on, but also on how hard the bull tries to knock him off.

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09 of 09

Directions, Parking, Tickets

Payson Rodeo
©Judy Hedding

The Payson Rodeo is held on the third weekend (Thursday through Sunday) of every August for days. The Payson Event Center is located on the south side of Payson. To get there from the Phoenix area, take the Loop 202 east to the Country Club/Highway 87 exit. Make a left to go north on 87, and take it all the way up to Payson. The Mazatzal Casino will be on the right, and the Payson Event Center will be on the left at the light. It's less than a 2 hour drive from most points in the Valley.

There is a charge for parking. Tickets may be purchased at the event. There's a discount for seniors and children. Bring cash--no credit cards accepted.

Tips for attending the Payson Rodeo:

1. If you come in the daytime, and it's a sunny day, make sure you sit on the side of the stadium where the sun will be at your back and not in your eyes.
2. These are all metal bleachers with no backs. Bring seat pads if sitting on metal bleachers for a few hours sounds like a challenge.
3. If you get there early, you can get a seat at the top row of the bleachers (higher is better for viewing) and you'll have the added benefit of a fence behind you can lean back against.
4. Bring your camera, a hat, sunscreen.
5. Drink your water, soft drinks, and beverages before you leave--no open containers are allowed out of the rodeo grounds.
6. Don't want to fight the traffic leaving the rodeo? Take your kids and stop at the petting zoo!

For more information about dates and details for the Rodeo, visit the Town of Payson online.

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