If you’re looking for the heart and soul of Texas, you’ll find it at the Mesquite Championship Rodeo. Grab a cold beer and a plate of brisket, take your seat in the stands and watch bulls kick up dust as cowboys hang on for dear life. It’s here that you’ll experience Texas in all of its spurs-and-cowboy-boots glory.
From herds of iconic longhorn cattle to legendary boot shops, the Lone Star State has long been associated with cowboys. There’s no place better to see them in action — and feel like one yourself — than in Mesquite, which just so happens to be the “Rodeo Capital of Texas,” as dubbed by the state legislature. Here you’ll find a permanent rodeo that’s such an essential part of the community that you can feel the spirit throughout town.
Whether you’re a lifelong rodeo fan or a first-timer who doesn’t know steer wrestling from barrel racing, here’s everything you need to know about getting into the cowboy spirit by experiencing the rodeo in Mesquite.
Why It’s Special
The Mesquite Rodeo has been a fixture of the area long before you could post pictures of rodeo clowns to Instagram. In fact, the Mesquite Rodeo has been around since 1958, when Neal Gay established it as a permanent rodeo. If you’re familiar with the rodeo circuit, you know how special it is to have a rodeo that stays in the same place, making it a part of the community. Mesquite has had that for 60 years.
Since the rodeo’s debut, it has attracted hundreds of thousands of rodeo fans, including presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. To attend a rodeo event in Mesquite is to be a part of the community and experience a piece of history.
If you’ve never attended a rodeo, all of those horses and bulls and cowboys running around can seem a bit chaotic. Don’t worry — you don’t have to be born in a saddle to understand the rodeo. Like all professional rodeos, the Mesquite Championship Rodeo is broken down into two categories of events: timed and roughstock. True to the name, a timed event requires cowboys to complete tasks such as tie-down roping (also called calf roping) as quickly as possible. Roughstock events challenge riders to stay on an animal (horse, bull or steer) for eight seconds while holding on with one hand.
One fun event that you won’t want to miss if you’re attending the rodeo with kids is the mutton busting event, which allows young cowboys and cowgirls to practice their skills while riding on the back of sheep. Confused about what the announcer is talking about when he says “crossfire penalty” or “flank strap”? Look over this handy list of rodeo terms and you’ll be a pro in no time.
Know Before You Go
While all rodeos feature similar categories and events, every venue has its own unique regional charm, and the Mesquite Rodeo is no exception. If you’re looking to attend the Mesquite Championship Rodeo, swing through town between June and August to check it out.
And yes, we know what you’re thinking — isn’t it sweltering hot in Texas during the summer? Good news: the Mesquite Rodeo is held in an indoor, air-conditioned stadium, making it the perfect summertime activity, rain or shine.
Tickets are available online or in person and are typically priced at around $20 (children under 3 years old get in free). Parking is $10. Be sure to bring cash for barbecue fare and get there early to enjoy pulled pork, beer and music before things get going. (There is an ATM on-site if you forget.)
As far as seating goes, thanks to the design of the arena, there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. Those sensitive to dust and dirt may want to sit back a few rows from the action — or bring a group and splurge for an enclosed air-conditioned 10-person suite.
The Mesquite Championship Rodeo may only last for a summer, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the fun if you visit another time. One uniquely Mesquite rodeo event you definitely don’t want to miss is a Hip Hop Cowboys rodeo. This locally beloved Mesquite rodeo combines rap, R&B, hip-hop, blues, gospel and soul with bull riding, broncos and other popular rodeo events. Where else can you see a cowboy rapping while he rides a bucking bronco or hear DJs spin while there’s steer wrestling going on? The family-friendly Hip Hop Cowboy rodeos take place in the fall and spring, and they’re sure to satiate your desire for rodeo action while introducing you to something new.
In addition to the Mesquite Championship Rodeo and the Hip Hop Cowboy experience, keep an eye out for other rodeo events, motocross events and concerts held at the arena year-round. And if you’re not a Mesquite local, don’t forget to explore the authentically Texas town while you’re visiting. From the historic downtown to the friendly spirit of cowboy-hat-clad locals, you’ll find that in addition to being the Rodeo Capital of Texas, there’s a lot of spirit in Mesquite.
Written by Krista Diamond for Matcha in partnership with Mesquite CVB.