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Finding Authentic Cowboy Heritage . . . in Central Florida

by Larissa

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It’s no surprise to anyone that central Florida is a vacation destination with attractions galore. But did you know it’s also a great place to see national circuit rodeo? Tucked amid the theme parks and cartoon characters and water slides beats the heart of cowboy heritage, and it is darn-tootin’ authentic.

Having spent much of the past year in the western US, Michael and I became accustomed to seeing Rodeo Grounds at the edge of town. Where cattle ranching is a way of life, national circuit rodeo is the sport of choice, and cowboy boots and hats aren’t novelties—they’re work clothes.

Osceola County Seal

Thus it was a real eye-opener to discover that Kissimmee, just minutes south of Orlando, is a hotbed of ropin’, ridin’ . . . and rodeo. Cattle ranching is big business here, starting long before the roller coasters came to town.  Ditto the 70-year-old Silver Spurs Rodeo, the oldest rodeo east of the Mississippi. Think of it as the “Wild, Wild East.” The county seal even sports the image of a ropin’ cowboy in addition to Epcot Center in the distance.

Now they’re kicking the cowboy connection up a notch: Kissimmee has brought national championship rodeo to the Silver Spurs arena. The RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo (RNCFR) is riding into town in a blaze of glory. This is one of the major US competitions sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

If you’ve never been to a rodeo, this would be a great place to start. Forget what you might have seen on TV—seeing it in person is an exciting (we’re talking heart-pounding) experience for all ages. This is pure athleticism as cowboys (and cowgirls!) are put through their paces in events like bareback riding, barrel racing and team roping.

The inaugural event will take place March 25-28, 2015, where regional champions from 12 circuits around the country will compete for national championship status—and over $1 million in cash and prizes. With that kind of money at stake, you can bet this is the real deal!

Tickets can be purchased for individual days, or the entire 4-day competition. Each day will feature a special theme, such as Family Night or Military Appreciation Night. Ticket prices start at $15, which is a bargain for an afternoon or evening full of entertainment.

rodeo roping 1This will be a fun time to be in central Florida. In addition to the national circuit rodeo, Kissimmee is hosting several other events that will give the area a festival atmosphere. There will be cattle drives, live country music concerts, fun and games in a Fan Zone, and . . . a barbecue cookoff!

The first annual Florida Heritage Barbecue Classic, which has been sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbecue Society, will take place during Rodeo Week. Hundreds of competitors are expected, with plenty of great barbecue to sample. My husband, who travels with a pair of barbecue tongs (I am NOT kidding!), will not want to miss this one.

One of the things I love about travel is discovering characteristics about a destination that make the visit unique. I was thrilled to learn about Kissimmee’s cowboy heritage and the national circuit rodeo, especially so close to Orlando. It’s an authentic piece of Florida that I never expected.

Kissimmee Lake

This post was sponsored by Experience Kissimmee.

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