The Flint Hills are cattle country.
Where there are cattle, there are cowboys on horseback to take care of them.
Cowboy is the profession of many in the Flint Hills, and they’re a competitive bunch.
Who can ride the roughest bucking horse, rope and tie the orneriest critter the fastest? That’s the premise for the sport of rodeo, so what more appropriate locale for rodeo than the Flint Hills.
E.C. Emmett Roberts was a cowboy, non-arguably “the best in the Flint Hills, eight-decades-plus ago.
He certainly was never shy in climbing aboard the rankest horse in the pen, or challenging another to any-and-all cowboy abilities.
Roberts’ rodeo adrenalin carried intensely to his children. The family started a rodeo at their Strong City ranch.
Cowboys local and from miles around came to try and beat the Roberts bunch. That didn’t happen, and soon the Roberts family went on to become world renowned rodeo champions.
But, the Sunday afternoon Roberts Ranch Western competitive gathering became an annual attraction, the Flint Hills Rodeo.
“Emmett Roberts and his family are an inspirational story of rodeo success,” said Buck Bailey, president of the Flint Hills Rodeo Association.
“It’s a tradition that’s been carried on with the 81st annual Flint Hills Rodeo, set May 31 through June 2, at the arena in Strong City,” Bailey said.
“Traditionally the first weekend in June,” Bailey said, “the Flint Hills Rodeo is the oldest consecutive rodeo in the state of Kansas.”
Billed as “Rodeo at its Best,” the Flint Hills Rodeo is now sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. “We’ll have the best cowboys and cowgirls here, including several present and former world champions,” Bailey said.
First and foremost is the competition featuring bareback and saddle bronc riding events, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, team roping, bull riding and barrel racing for the cowgirls.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening performances begin at 8 o’clock, with a full slate of attractions for three days.
Opening at 5 o’clock each evening, a Western Trade Show features a wide array of unique ranch-life specialties.
Future of rodeo is children, and Thursday has been designated Kid’s Night. “Cowboys and cowgirls 12-years-and-under will get into Thursday’s performance free,” Bailey said. “The first 200 children in the gate Thursday evening will also get a ticket for a free hotdog.”
There’ll be a kids’ stick horse race, at 6 o’clock, every evening.
The calf scramble and mutton busting are youth highlights during each performance. Thursday’s calf scramble features six-to-eight-year-old participants, those nine-to-11 compete Friday, and Saturday, it’ll be the 12-to-14-year-olds.
Mutton busting, actually wild sheep riding, will be limited to eight contestants per night with registration required by calling 620-803-1535. Participation opportunities for five-to-seven-year-old contestants weighing 55-pounds-or-less now only remain open for Friday and Saturday.
Friday’s performance has been designated Military Appreciation Night, offering free admission for active and retired military persons with identification.
Anticipated annual rodeo attraction is the Saturday afternoon parade, beginning at 2 o’clock, at Swope Park, in Cottonwood Falls, and concluding at the rodeo grounds. “Everybody’s welcome to come be in the parade, or bring your chair and watch along the route,” Bailey encouraged.
A cowboy-cowgirl dance right at the rodeo grounds featuring Brick Horse Classic Rock Country will follow both the Friday and Saturday evening performances. Rodeo ticket holders are admitted no charge.
Livestock is the key to success of rodeo, and Cervi Championship Rodeo offers the best, according to Bailey.
“Binion Cervi and Chase Cervi carry on the more than 60-year family tradition controlling every aspect of the rodeo performance, with the outstanding livestock and unique features,” Bailey said.
Roger Mooney, one of the top professional rodeo announcers in the world, will return to call the Flint Hills action.
The most diversified Western showman Rider Kiesner, Ripley, Oklahoma, trick roper, trick rider, rodeo clown and bull fighter is a special attraction for this year’s Flint Hills Rodeo.
Kiesner grew up in a family who entertained at rodeos, and when he became an adult, the cowboy entertainer struck out on his own.
Since then, Rider Kiesner has worked such prestigious shows as Cavalia, a world-wide touring equestrian show; the National Finals Rodeo the last three years; Cheyenne Frontier Days and many more.
Additional information is available at www.flinthillsrodeo.org.