Post image for Finding Authentic Cowboy Heritage . . . in Central Florida

Finding Authentic Cowboy Heritage . . . in Central Florida

by Larissa on January 31, 2015

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.

Rick February 2, 2015 at 11:22 am

This is pretty cool. I go to Orlando a lot but never knew about all the cowboy stuff in Florida.

Larissa February 2, 2015 at 12:47 pm

I know, Rick–there are so many attractions it’s hard to keep them all straight. But I like this bit of authenticity in the heart of Fantasy Land!

Wandering Educators February 2, 2015 at 2:26 pm

Who knew? Very cool – and yet another thing to learn about Florida. Thanks!

Jennifer February 2, 2015 at 4:45 pm

This is a great way for a family to add some authenticity to their theme park vacation in Central Florida.

Larissa February 2, 2015 at 5:25 pm

Yes, Jessie, it really adds a new dimension to a visit to Orlando!

Larissa February 2, 2015 at 5:27 pm

I agree, Jen. I love the roller coasters and water slides as much as the next person. But this is such real stuff-and a very good value!

noel February 2, 2015 at 7:51 pm

I wouldn’t be surprised, we also have a very active cowboy and rodeo circuit on the Big Island of Hawaii albeit a more tropical attired event. Sounds like a lot of fun.

Lillie February 2, 2015 at 11:42 pm

Cowboys! Swoon. Love these photos and details.

Penny Sadler February 4, 2015 at 9:35 pm

Being from Texas I doubt I’d travel to Florida for BBQ and rodeo but you never know!

Donna Janke February 16, 2015 at 12:31 am

I didn’t know Kissimmee was home to a major rodeo and certainly don’t associate cowboy culture with Florida. It is interesting to discover things like this when one travels. The town I grew up has held a professional rodeo since I was a young girl and I have attended many rodeo show/events over the years.

Susan Moore February 16, 2015 at 8:51 am

I never would have guessed your photo was from a rodeo in Florida – I had no idea there was cowboy culture in Florida! I grew up in Calgary so this of course reminds me of the Calgary Stampede, an event I attended many years. Fond memories of hanging out with family and friends, thank you so much!

Anita @ No Particular Place To Go February 16, 2015 at 10:28 am

We lived in Montana for years and went to several rodeos which were always a lot of fun. Given the opportunity, I’d put on a cowboy hat and boots and go to one again!

Carole Terwilliger Meyers February 16, 2015 at 4:02 pm

It IS a surprise to find a rodeo in Kissimmee, Florida. Sort of the same kind of surprise as finding cowboys in Hawaii. They get around.

Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru February 16, 2015 at 7:04 pm

Hi Larissa – We love rodeo and have a daughter who competes. Central Florida has a long-standing cowboy tradition and it’s great to see rodeo getting the attention it deserves.

Suzanne Stavert February 16, 2015 at 11:15 pm

Wow – that is super cool. I love the photos too!

Cathy Sweeney February 19, 2015 at 2:36 pm

This is surprising about Central Florida. I wouldn’t have guessed there was any kind of cowboy heritage there. I went to my first rodeo in Houston a few years ago. It really was a lot of fun and I did admire the skills involved.

Sue Reddel February 19, 2015 at 8:52 pm

Cowboys in Florida? Who knew? When I think Kissimmee I think Disneyland. Thanks for providing a fresh perspective.

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