FT. SMITH, AR – Rodeo returns to the River Valley this weekend as The 88th annual Old Fort Days Rodeo rides into Fort Smith. The week-long event kicks off at 10 am on May 31st with the traditional Old Fort Days Rodeo Parade through Downtown Fort Smith. Activities continue through the day into the evening with Muttin’ Bustin’ from 4:30 to 6 pm, Musical Performances from 5:30 to 6:30 pm, and The Great American Chute Out! beginning nightly at 7:30 pm. Tickets for each night can be purchased online.
Monday is Wrangler National Patriot Night honoring area veterans. NFR rodeo announcer Mike Mathis is back in the saddle calling the rodeo. 4-time world champion trick roper and Professional Rodeo Clown, Rider Kiesner will be entertaining the crowd all week. Award-winning stock contractor Andrews Rodeo Company is back providing this year’s champion livestock. Plus, crowd favorite Muttin’ Bustin’ is back each night featuring the area’s aspiring young cowboys and cowgirls.
The Old Fort Days Rodeo is a community project sponsored by the Arkansas-Oklahoma Regional Education and Promotion Association, Inc. The Association, which is an all-volunteer, not-for-profit corporation, was organized exclusively for the purpose of educating and informing the residents of Western Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma about agricultural matters.
The first rodeo took place at Andrews Field, close to the Arkansas River near downtown Fort Smith, in 1933. It was billed as the “Pawnee Bill Rodeo” and featured the real Pawnee Bill from Pawnee, Oklahoma. Bill agreed to appear at the downtown parade and during the grand entry of every performance. The cost of entry to the rodeo was 65¢ and records show it was very well attended.
In 1942, Bert Harper and R.K Rodgers led the effort to purchase land known as the OG&E Electric Park on Midland Boulevard in Fort Smith. In later years, this showground would become known as Kay Rodgers Park, named after the visionary chairman who helped start the rodeo.
Today, cowboys from all over the world compete for one of the largest prize purses in Arkansas. Events include Saddle Bronc Riding, Bull Riding, Bareback Riding, Calf Roping, Barrel Racing and Steer Wrestling, Kid’s Mutton Busting, and more! Beginning each year on Memorial Day, the legend of the Old Fort Days Rodeo lives and breathes new life into a cherished national pastime that will continue for many generations to come.