Vernon, Texas, is no stranger to the cowboy way of life. Back in the 1800’s the Great Western Cattle Trail brought over 7 million cattle and horses right through the town on their way to Kansas and Nebraska. So, it’s quite fitting that Vernon, located in North Central Texas just about halfway between Dallas/Fort Worth and Amarillo, will once again be hosting the Santa Rosa Roundup Rodeo.
This year’s rodeo (which, as y’all probably know is Texas’ official state sport) will take place May 18-21, in the historic Santa Rosa Rodeo Grounds—the same arena where it all began back in 1947. The festivities kick off on Wednesday, May 18 at 4:00 pm with a parade in downtown Vernon. Following the parade, the Lions Club of Vernon will be hosting a cowboy barbecue at the rodeo grounds. And then it’s time for the main event, the opening performance of the Santa Rosa Roundup Rodeo! All weekend long, you’ll get to see professional cowboys and cowgirls showcasing their skills at bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, team roping, to name just a few. If you come on Friday or Saturday night, make sure you head on over to the Horse Palace after the rodeo for some great entertainment and dancing, thanks to the Blaine Gillespie Band. You can find information about tickets here.
The Vernon community is especially happy to be hosting the event this year since it almost didn’t happen. In 2014, the Santa Rosa Rodeo facility was closed and slated for demolition when the owner decided the maintenance costs were too high. The passionate residents and businesses of Vernon rallied, raising over $300,000 to save the historic arena and the rodeo. This year’s rodeo parade theme is appropriately titled “A New Beginning”.
While you’re in town, I would highly recommend you pay a visit to the Red River Valley Museum. Now, this is not your typical small-town museum; it’s a fascinating place with lots to see, including exhibits on ancient dinosaur fossils and Native artifacts found in the region, photographs, paintings, maps, and an extensive wild game collection which is hailed as one of the finest natural history exhibits found in any museum. Plus, in keeping with the theme of the weekend, you’ll see a wide variety of displays and exhibits focusing on the Great Western Cattle Trail, and what life was like in the area back in the 19th century. It’s not every day that you find a museum of this caliber that doesn’t charge an admission fee, but the Red River Valley Museum is free (they do appreciate donations, though).
Hopefully, y’all will be able to make it to Vernon for the Santa Rosa Roundup Rodeo May 18-21, but if not, Vernon is a charming town worth visiting any time of the year!