Once upon a time in September
of 1938, a group of men in "The Big Little Town" of Freedom,
planned an event, known as a rodeo, for the young men in the area to test
their skills against the calves, steers and each other. No previous rodeo
experience and under 21 years of age were the entry rules. Those most often
referred to as "founders" of the Freedom Junior Rodeo were: W.R.
"Brad" Shaull, Frank Kamas and Rudy Eden.
As so often
happens, these men of many years ago, even though they dreamed, could not
have imagined how their idea would take hold of an entire community and
become the "Biggest Open Rodeo in The West", held the third
weekend in August each year in what is now lovingly referred to as the
"Queen City of The Cimarron".
A real Chuck Wagon
feed was started to honor the old cowhands and their wives of the area. In
September 1939, 125 cowhands received an invitation to come to the feed and
"join under one brand". The main items on the menu then, as now,
consisted of beef, beans and black coffee with the beef being donated by
local people and being prepared and served by the community minded group of
Also in 1939 the
tradition of having a Rodeo Queen was started, and to this day it is
considered a true honor to be named Queen of the Freedom Rodeo. From 1939
thru 1955 the Chamber of Commerce selected the girl for Queen, but in the
1956, as an economic measure, the Queen Contest was started with all
contestants selling advance rodeo tickets, At this time the contestants
started receiving many nice gifts-a saddle, bonds, buckle, trophies,
plaques and tiara, to name a few, plus a percent of their ticket sales.
Before the years of stock
contractors, the stock was purchased by local men, who traveled the area
and surrounding states in order to find the best stock possible.
In the beginning
there was always a parade which started at the school house after the Chuck
Wagon Feed, pranced down the main street and out to the rodeo grounds for
the Grand Entry so the rodeo could begin at 2:00 p.m. The Chamber of
Commerce has a colored film of some of these activities from 1940 which can
be viewed by contacting the Chamber of Commerce.
Because the hearts
of the people in our area have always been giving and civic minded, the profits
of the 1942 Rodeo were all given to the U.S.O. which was Freedom's way of
doing something to help the boys who were serving the Armed Services. Also
in 1942 the wives of the Cowhands decided to have their own organization
and meet at the same time as the Cowhands had their meeting, thus was
founded the Cimarron Cowboy's Auxiliary.
preserve a true statement of the Old Cowhands of the area, a plan was begun
in 1943 to have a memorial to the Early Day Cowhands. The next few years
were spent planning and raising money to bring this plan to a reality. Once
again, in 1946, the giving spirit sprang forth and the profits of the rodeo
were donated to the building of the Memorial.
Many will remember
the fun of traveling on the booster trips to other towns in our area
broadcasting the upcoming Freedom Rodeo.
By now, in 1948, the older
cowboys wanted to participate in the rodeo so a spot was added for senior
ropers. Public donations were given to install lights around the arena and
so began the evening performances. The Rodeo has been managed by several
different organizations through the years: 1938-54 Chamber of Commerce;
1952 Cimarron Roping Club; 1953-54 American Legion; 1955 Freedom Ropers
Club; and finally from 1956 to the present Freedom Chamber of Commerce.
performance of the rodeo has ever been cancelled and that was the Saturday
evening performance in 1955 because of the terrible rain storm. Because of
the cancellation, the Rodeo went in the red and the local cowboys and
others came up with enough money to pay all bills.
1956 was the first
year that an individual was selected to be honored at the Chuck Wagon Feed
and Rodeo. Mrs. Lucy Snapp was chosen as the Pioneer-Rancher of Freedom
Community to receive the recognition. The special honor has become a
highlight of Rodeo time. The ladies Auxiliary now has the responsibility of
inviting friends of the honoree, decorating the tables and planning a short
program at the feed and Reunion.
Through the years the events
have changed-mostly to go along with the times, but the rodeo itself has
always met with the same response – VERY GOOD – thanks to the cooperative
efforts of all.
made yearly to the grounds. There are always two work days prior to the 3rd
weekend in August and in many years it has taken much more volunteer time.
With the addition of new and more bleachers, restroom facilities on both
sides, concrete floors in concession stands, a new broadcast booth, bucking
chutes, catch pens, fence, stock pens and much more room for parking cars,
the Rodeo grounds are a top-notch facility.
this history of the Freedom Rodeo, which was possible through the old
copies of the Freedom newspaper and found in the musuem, it became quite
clear that the people of the Freedom Community have a cooperative spirit
and have always been, as they are today, interested in public and civic
affairs, their community, and other people. The main goal of the volunteers
who have donated many hours to the improvement of the Rodeo weekend has
been to give the guests who attend a good show and hope they will come
Few individuals were named in
this history but you can be certain of the fact that anyone you ever knew
or heard of living in Freedom and the community around on both sides of the
Cimarron, has helped with the Freedom Rodeo and Old Cowhand Reunion – some
more than others and some longer then others – but one thing is certain –
it takes the cooperation of everyone to bring about the success that the
Freedom Rodeo has enjoyed for over 60 years. All indicators point to
another successful 60 years, thanks to the continued work and cooperation
of the newer generations taking their place in the community.
It was once
written by a visiting newspaper man, about Freedom; "These people can
adapt themselves to all manner of confections, but have the needed pep and
energy to shape circumstances to their liking. Proof is the Rodeo and
Cowhand Reunion. In the Shortgrass vernacular, they are a LIVE BUNCH".