Oklahoma prizes its cowboy traditions of riding and roping, and rodeo puts those skills to the test in competitions that attract thousands of fans and generate millions of dollars in economic impact.
Rodeo is a part of life in Oklahoma and the state is home to some of the best competitions in the country, with participants competing in events ranging from sorting to barrel racing to steer wrestling. The state is home to the U.S. Team Roping Championships major rodeo circuit. From the round-up clubs in many towns across the state that nurture horse skills to the numerous pro circuits that make their way through Oklahoma, rodeo is both educational and entertaining.
Rodeo is also big business. Some 26 percent of recreational horse owners in Oklahoma participate in rodeo activities. It’s also a family affair with 54 percent of rodeo households having more than one participant.
Oklahoma is one of the leading collegiate and high school rodeo states. Oklahoma State University has had a rodeo team since 1946 and in 2014, the team will host its first official collegiate rodeo in its new arena at the Payne County Expo Center.
Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Okla. is known throughout the rodeo world as one of the top arenas. Owned and operated by Micah and Leslie McKinney of Guthrie, Okla., the facility was built in 1984 and has been described as the “Taj Mahal” of rodeo.
“That arena was built to house the National Final Team Roping Championships,” Micah McKinney says. “We also have the national finals of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. This past year, it was the 30th anniversary of the finals of the Timed Event Championships – what we call the iron man of rodeo. It’s a unique event for people to see. Contestants and visitors come from 45 states.”
Leslie McKinney grew up in a rodeo family and competed in barrels, poles and breakaway calf roping. Micah continues to compete in team roping.
“There’s so much heritage here – we’re proud to be part of it,” McKinney says. “We learned discipline, responsibility, the thrill of competition and so much more from rodeo competition. That’s what rodeo teaches kids,” Micah says.