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Day Tripper - Cowtown Rodeo
04/24/2010 - By Teja Anderson
Enjoy Professional Rodeo in the True Tradition of the Old West
Enjoy Professional Rodeo in the True Tradition of the Old West
Back in the good ol’ days cowboy were the glue that held the West together. Ranchers would hire cowboys to keep a watchful eye over their herds on the wide open range. Although property boundaries, dwindling open space and the invention of the fenced in herd has removed much of the need for true cowboys, you can still see many of the skills they employed by attending a rodeo. And the good news is you don’t have to travel very far west to find one! New Jersey is home to the Cowtown Rodeo located in the town of Pilesgrove!
Celebrating over 55 years of professional rodeo, Cowtown is acclaimed for being a highlight on the professional rodeo circuit. Rodeo performances are held every Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. from Memorial Day weekend in May through the last Saturday in September. So pull on your boots, buckle on your spurs, tuck your plaid shirt into your jeans and head to the Cowtown Rodeo.
“Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.” – Will Rogers
Cowtown Rodeo in rural Salem County features all seven rodeo events sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA). They are: Bareback Bronc Riding, Calf Roping, Saddle Bronc Riding, Steer Wrestling, Bull Riding, Team Roping, and Girls Barrel Racing (cheer on local cowgirl favorite, Jayme Edwards). Today’s rodeo cowboys and cowgirls let the most skilled amongst them show off their roping, riding, and many other talents to the whole world. Being a rodeo cowboy is a dangerous occupation where the strongest and smartest will take home the victory. The kids will especially enjoy the antics of the Rodeo Clowns whose skills at entertainment are nearly as good as their amazing athletic abilities. On weekends there is usually live entertainment; “Dave and the Wranglers” will have you tapping your toes and up out of your seat dancing in no time.
“Never slap a man who’s chewing tobacco.” - Will Rogers
Cowtown Rodeo was started in 1929 by Howard Harris Sr. and his son, Howard “Stoney” Harris Jr. Stoney held the first rodeo in Woodstown, in conjunction with the Salem County Fair, and did so annually until 1937. World War II caused the rodeo to be put on hold until 1955 when Howard Harris III, Stoney’s son, came back from the University of Idaho carrying the 1954 National Intercollegiate All Around Rodeo Championship Saddle with him.
Howard III and Stoney worked together to establish what is now known as the “oldest weekly rodeo in the United States.” Cowtown Rodeo was and is known nationwide due to live national TV exposure in the 1950s and taped exposure in the 1960s. The rodeo outgrew the original arena so in 1967 Howard III built the present version, which has a seating capacity of 4,000.
The fourth generation Howard, Howard “Grant” Harris, grew up with Cowtown Rodeo. Grant was only a year old when the weekly rodeo started in 1955. He practically lived behind the chutes and at eight years old he won the Junior Bull Riding Championship. Grant entered professional competition at the age of 14, getting his Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association card at the age of 17. He entered Casper College, in Casper, Wy. with a full rodeo scholarship and competed hard all across the United States. He was the Northeast Circuit Saddle Bronc Champion in 1975, ‘77, and ‘78. In 1978, Grant and his wife Betsy bought the Cowtown Rodeo from his father and had to make a very tough decision - be a contestant or a business owner.
“I like to think that I haven’t left it for good, but you cannot run a rodeo every Saturday night from May to September and compete on the rodeo circuit as well. Rodeoing has been a family business since 1929 when Grandpop Stoney got it rolling. It wasn’t easy, but it is hard to walk away from something your dad and your granddad spent a lifetime building. Somehow, sitting on a bronc is mild compared to the things that pop up all over the place around here. With all the action up front, there is considerable organization in the background.” – Howard “Grant” Harris Cowtown Rodeo is unique in the fact that they not only have produced rodeos all over the East Coast, from Rutland, Vt. to Raleigh, N.C., but also raise most of their own bucking stock. The bucking horses you see today are the grandsons and granddaughters of the bucking horses you might have seen in the early 1970s. In 1985, Cowtown Rodeo was very proud to have one of their bulls named “Bucking Bull of the Year” in the PRCA.
“What this country needs is dirtier fingernails and cleaner minds” –Will Rogers
Grant and Betsy live on the “home ranch” and are carrying on the tradition of Cowtown Rodeo. Grant runs the daily operation while Betsy secretaries the rodeos and is the president of the First Frontier Rodeo Circuit, which oversees the entire rodeo circuit here in the Northeast. They have two daughters, Courtney and Katy. Courtney is married to Jake Morehead of the Three Hills Rodeo Company in Bernard, Ia. and together they continue the rodeo tradition in the Midwest. Katy lives here on the “home ranch” following in the footsteps of the generations before her, keeping the traditions of Cowtown Rodeo alive. When you go, keep this famous anonymous cowboy quote in mind:
“Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear, or a fool from any direction”…
In addition to the rodeo, the Cowtown Flea Market right there in Pilesgrove is held every Tuesday and Saturday year round from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. They have over 500 vendors selling everything from “designer bags” to home furnishings - and boy do they love to haggle! Parking is free at the rodeo and the usual kid-friendly refreshments are available. But if you are looking for a full meal or a cowboy steak there are several restaurants around the immediate area. Just five minutes away are both The Rushes and the Woodstown Diner. The Rushes, open seven days a week, is quite nice with everything from Scallops Flambé to Drunken Littlenecks, Fried Cajun Catfish to Smothered Strip Steak (856-769-2222; reservations recommended). The Woodstown Diner is a little lower key; they have burgers, steaks, pasta, salads and a lively bar. Then there are the usual pizza places and a Wendy’s.
Come on out and experience the excitement of a professional rodeo in our State’s backyard! For further information, please call (856) 769-3200. Or visit their website www.cowtownrodeo.com. The cowboys ride every Saturday Night at 7:30 p.m. from May 29, 2010 to Sept. 25, 2010.
780 Route 40
Pilesgrove, NJ 08098
Phone (856) 769-3200
$10 children (12 and under)
Children under 2 Free
Groups of 25 or more: $10adults $5 children (12 and under)
Cowtown Rodeo is located on Route #40 eight miles east of the Delaware Memorial Bridge, Exit #1 on the New Jersey Turnpike or exit # 4 off of Route 295.
Hotel accommodations in Salem County close to Cowtown Rodeo:
Holiday Inn Select
Holiday Inn Express
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