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Head to North Country for the World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo

Published: Friday, August 17, 2012

Updated: Friday, August 17, 2012 14:08

August Doin's Rodeo

James Bruner

The world’s oldest continuous rodeo will celebrate its 128th year in Payson this weekend.

In addition to being a great tradition in the Valley, the August Doin’s rodeo is one of the featured Arizona Centennial Celebration events.

 “For more than 20 years, the [August Doin’s] rodeo has been more than just a rodeo,” said Cameron Davis, parks, recreation and tourism director for the City of Payson. “It has been a celebration and this year will be no different.”

For Payson residents, the rodeo is an important annual economic and community boost.

“It is a time for families to get together, for old friends to hang out and it’s a huge boon to the local economy,” Davis said.

Aside from the city’s Fourth of July festival, which attracts 12,000 people, the August Doin’s rodeo is the second biggest event of the year.

Professional cowboys and cowgirls will compete for a cash prize totaling more than $50,000 in a total of seven events: steer wrestling, tie down roping, bull riding, saddle bronco riding, bare back riding, barrel racing and team racing.

Aside from the traditional rodeo events, there are also performances, parades, a “tough enough to wear pink” campaign and after parties.

Although a lot of the attendees at the August Doin’s rodeo are locals, Davis said the event also attracts a lot of people up from the Valley looking for a great way to beat the heat.

“Come up and get out of the heat and enjoy Payson, Arizona - Arizona’s cool mountain town,” he said.” We are surrounded by the largest ponderosa pine forest in the world and our temperatures are usually 20 degrees cooler [than Phoenix].”

Some people may think that this event is just come gimmicky cowboy show in a small town. However, this is a professional rodeo that is sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA).

After the 125th celebration, True West magazine named Payson’s Rodeo as the ‘Best Small Town PRCA Rodeo’ in the country, according to the event website.

The August Doin’s rodeo dates back to 1884 when it was started by “Arizona Charlie” Meadows and John Collins Chilson.

On the third weekend in August of 1884, cowboys from different ranches in the area competed in the first rodeo at Midtown Pasture. They met up to see which one of them was the best at skills like roping, horse riding and silver dollar pitching. Back in the early days, the rodeos were not held in an events center like they are today. Instead, the city would just close off all main streets and the cowboys would compete right in the middle of town.

Because of the casual nature of these early rodeos, some controversy surrounds the August Doin’s rodeo’s claim to be the oldest in the world.

In “World’s Oldest Rodeo,” author Danny Freeman claims Prescott held the world’s first rodeo in 1888.

According to the August Doin’s website, Freeman discounted some of the early Payson rodeos because he claimed that they were just a few cowboys competing in roping and the event was not organized.

Despite this claim, the Doin’s rodeo’s organizers feel they’re the rightful owner of the title of “The World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo.”

2012 August Doin’s Rodeo, 100 W. Main Street, Payson,, Thursday to Sunday, August 16 to August 19, times vary, $4-$22

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