Saturday, September 23, 2023


Finding little pieces of true, old-school Americana soul

It was like jumping into a time machine set for the 1950s. While winter traveling in our RV, my husband and I learned that a county rodeo was scheduled for Saturday night. A rodeo? We’re in! We extended our stay in southwestern Florida for a bit longer. And I’m so happy we did!

Y’all come on down to the rodeo!

Florida’s south-central and central-southwest regions boast two big industries: cattle ranching and sugar cane. While “big sugar” helped sponsor the rodeo, it was definitely the livestock industry that took center stage in this annual event. Cowboys and cowgirls of all ages filed into the fairgrounds. Locals from surrounding towns came too. It was a mishmash of young and old, boots and flip flops, cowboy hats and baseball caps. Everyone different, yet all with the glint of anticipation in their eyes and the hint of a smile on their lips. “People watching at its very best,” I thought to myself.

With concession hot dogs and drinks in hand, we found some seats and settled in. The rodeo starting time came and went. The cowboy announcer came on to apologize for the technical problems and assured the crowd that things would get underway soon. A mix of country and rock music blasted from the loudspeakers for about 15 minutes while horses and their riders warmed up inside the arena.

A prayer

When the cowboy announcer came back on the microphone, he asked the crowd to stand. Then, in a slow drawl, he said, “Drop the lids and bow your heads. Listen close while prayers are said.” Every hat-wearing person in the small grandstand took off their hats and/or caps. Even little children solemnly bowed their heads, and you could have heard a pin drop. The announcer prayed a prayer of thanks to God for the beautiful weather and the big crowd. He prayed for protection for both the participants as well as the livestock. He closed with thanks again for the privilege of living in a free country and humbly requested Divine intervention for peace in our world.

The National Anthem

As the prayer ended, a beat of silence held. Then a lone rider, carrying the American flag entered the arena. The National Anthem began, and I discovered to my surprise a lump in my throat. “This…,” I thought to myself. “This is the America I love. Where God-fearing citizens proudly sing their anthem and make no apologies for living in the greatest nation on earth. Where folks of all colors, economic levels, and ages happily gather to cheer on the skills of unsung heroes—the folks who put food on our tables solely through their dedication and hard, demanding work.”

I don’t believe I’m alone in occasionally longing for the “good ol’ days”—days when our differences could be rationally discussed; times past when your personal feelings and beliefs could be vastly different but friends loved and supported you anyway; the days when patriotism was encouraged, even for our scarred and sometimes misguided country.

An evening to remember

We stayed till the end of the rodeo. We saw unbelievable horsemanship and amazing roping skills. The winning team won $1,000, which would be split among the team’s five participants. Not much pay for a hard night’s work, but delightful entertainment for everyone—especially me!

This is what I most appreciate about the RV experience. Most folks think of Florida as warm beaches and easy-living. It is that. But it’s also a lot more! RVing allows people like you and me to see beyond the travel brochures and appreciate all of the rest of what our country offers. And we can see it up close.

Do you attend local events when traveling around the country in your RV? Share your experiences with us!

Feel like going to a rodeo now? Check out the biggest rodeos in the U.S..



Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh
Gail Marsh is an avid RVer and occasional work camper. Retired from 30+ years in the field of education as an author and educator, she now enjoys sharing tips and tricks that make RVing easier and more enjoyable.


  1. This sounds like my hometown’s annual 4th of July rodeo. It’s the biggest thing for about 3 days. Loads of fun!

  2. No rodeos so far, but we did stumble across the big “buffalo” roundup in South Dakota a couple of years back and had a great time, as well as a wonderful pancake breakfast!

  3. We’ve enjoyed rodeos for years where they prayed and sang the national anthem. Sisters, La Pine, Bend, Pendleton, Oregon. Have anyone been to the big one in Calgary, Canada Stampede Days? There is a small one all summer long in West Yellowstone on Fridays and Saturdays. The bleachers are hard and parking is in a field. But the rodeo clowns keep not only the kids laughing, the adults too. Now that we have moved to Bandera, Texas the prayers and national anthem are still part of the show. God bless America!

    • Yes, been to the Calgary Stampede over 20 times. The entire city shuts down to party for 10 straight days starting the first Friday in July. Free pancake breakfasts on every street corner downtown outside the banks and the oil companies EVERYDAY. Always great entertainment, all day everyday. Amazing rodeo with a purse thst rivals the NFR on the final Sunday night. They bill it as “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”.

      If you get the chance, DO IT. Make sure you see the Chuckwagon races. AMAZING if you are not familiar.

      Saw both Roger Miller and Sting, one in 1988 and the other in 1989. So a very diversified offerings. Something for everyone.

      My wife was the Stampede high school rodeo queen in a year that won’t be revealed by me.

  4. Thank you for the personal views and support of this – still – great country. Say a special prayer for the lone dissenter!

  5. Few things in our travels brings us more pleasure than a small town rodeo, 4H club exhibitions and livestock competitions and fair grounds. The smells of the food conssessions mixed with the straw and hay fragrances plus the sounds of the midway and local young bands or entertainment. PURE AMERICANA.

  6. It wasn’t a rodeo but a good old fashioned small town Fourth of July celebration and parade that conjured up similar patriotic feelings. It was several years ago when we accidentally stumbled onto this celebration in Troy, Montana. The main highway through town was totally shut down. No big trucks, cattle haulers. loggers, nothing allowed on that street – except those in the parade. And, it seemed like everyone in town was part of the parade. Regular float-like wheeled vehicles and trailers, horses and buckboards, convertibles with the tops down and someone waving from all the seats, and even kids in old style wagons being pulled by their dogs. American flags everywhere and everyone removed their headgear every time a flag went by. Brought tears to my eyes because this was how it was even in big cities decades ago.

  7. Old article but worth the read again!

    My wife and I seek out such things in our travels around the country.

    And, Gail, I get a lump in my throat as well everytime I stand, hat over my heart, for our National Anthem and see the Stars and Stripes. I think about all the men and women that have given the ultimate sacrifice to create and, over time, not only defend democracy here and abroad, but literally save the world from the grips of tyranny multiple times. If that’s not the definition of the greatest country on earth, I don’t know what is!

  8. This is a great article on rodeo. At 74 I still team rope as does my son in law and my grandsons. My granddaughter barrel races at these events. The great singer Reba McEntire was discovered while singing the National Anthem at a rodeo at Okla. City, Ok.

  9. So cool that you learned of the rodeo in time to attend. Glad you had a great time and thank you for sharing how things went.

  10. This was a GREAT article. We love going to rodeos, in both big and small venues – county fairs to the NFR in Las Vegas. This writer captured the real essence of why people love rodeos! Thank you for writing it!

  11. My girlfriend and I live in San Antonio, Tx and attended the rodeo here February. We were very pleasantly surprised when they started with a prayer which ended “in Jesus name” followed by the national anthem sung by a very talented young lady. It was an awesome beginning to a very good rodeo.

  12. “Where God-fearing citizens proudly sing their anthem and make no apologies for living in the greatest nation on earth.”

    Christ, what a load of B.S. that statement was. You don’t even have to believe in “God” to be American, and we’re not the greatest, just the pushiest.

    • give it a rest Joe…some people still love this country and do fear and respect the thought of God. I can see where you hang out. This was a great article with some decent people having a good time that would not effect you since the thought attending this type of event would never occur to you, thank God.

    • You have options Joe. Maybe you could share with us what your first choice of country would be over the USA, set up a go fund me page, give us the link, and we can help you out of your predicament living in America.

  13. We’ve attended several rodeos during our travels. From Cody, WY to Brush, CO even one in my hometown in MO last fall that just happened to be while we were visiting there. We’ve also timed trips to attend events like the Western Legends Roundup in Kanab, UT and a very local bluegrass festival in WV. The small local events are usually more fun and the people friendlier.

  14. We have lived in north Florida for 40 years and we have spent many winter days exploring the Appalachicola Forest. Last week we saw a small herd of beautiful cattle grazing in the pines . We do not know if this cattle was part of a herd of “cracker cattle”. Ponce de Leon was the first to bring horses and cattle to Florida. The Cracker horses were smaller than most horses today and the Cracker cattle very well suited to our climate. Both breeds nearly died out but a few ranchers preserved the blood lines. After the civil war Floridian ranchers rounded up these animals and bred them with other horses and cattle. Quickly Florida became the largest international exporter of agricultural products including cattle. Florida history of cattle and horses dates back to the mid 1500’s. Rodeos are a great way to celebrate our strong ranching history.

    • It was in LaBelle, FL, held in connection with the annual Swamp Cabbage Festival. This year we attended the rodeo on February 26. Hope you can make it next year!

  15. We enjoyed the rodeo in Arcadia in south central Florida. Same experience. Love the American traditions that seem to be lost at other activities.

  16. Nice story! We winter in the Okeechobee area for many of the same reasons – we prefer the “cows” and “sugar cane” to the crowds.

    • Well, there’s a week long Rodeo in the RGV ending this weekend…
      Plenty of Cow Pastures and farm fields too.
      But we’re too busy dancing to all the many great Country and R&R Bands that play several times every week for entertainment and dancing all over the RGV during the Winter Texan Season. Prices range from only $7 – $10 per person – gotta love that!


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