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Star of Texas Rodeo – Austin’s Cowboy History Comes to Life

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Showcasing Austin’s proud tradition of rodeo, the Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo has been in existence since 1938. Originally known as the Travis County Baby Beef Show and held just opposite the Texas state capital building, the rodeo has grown from these humble beginnings to encompass nearly a month’s worth of events every year. The Travis County Expo Center was originally built in 1983 specifically to house the Star of Texas Rodeo and provides a perfect venue for the event’s array of rodeo-themed events and exhibits.

No one is certain just how rodeo originated, but the skills displayed in rodeo contests were part of daily life for cowboys in Texas since the 1700s. Roping, riding, and breaking horses were all part of the job, and it is thought that at the end of long cattle drives, cowboys from different ranches would hold informal competitions in these skills to earn pride of place for their home ranch. The tradition of formal rodeo contests in Texas dates back at least to 1883, though it is thought records of some earlier contests may have been lost over time.

Events associated with the Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo include a black-tie gala event and a carnival with rides, games and funnel cakes. But the real attraction is, of course, the rodeo. While children are invited to participate in activities like Mutton Bustin’ and the Calf Scramble, the focus is on serious rodeo events. Competitions in bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, tie-down roping, and saddle bronc riding demonstrate the skills used by the original cowboys in the Austin region.

Bareback riding

The bareback riding competition tests the cowboy’s endurance and agility. Grasping a leather and rawhide rigging with one hand, the cowboy’s other hand is not allowed to touch anything but air while he spurs the horse into action and then struggles to remain mounted. The final score is assessed not only on duration and style, but also on the horse’s performance, making this a team effort for cowboy and horse. The techniques used in this competition are similar to those used by the earliest cowboys while breaking horses to ride in early Austin.

Steer wrestling

Deceptively simple in its description, steer wrestling is one of the most difficult events, requiring lightning fast reflexes and tremendous physical strength. A mounted cowboy must overtake a running steer and, from horseback, grasp its horns and muscle it to the ground, ensuring that all four legs are thrown in the same direction opposite the cowboy.

Team roping and tie-down roping

Lasso work is an integral part of a cowboy’s job, and these competitions demonstrate it at its highest level. Team roping includes, as its name suggests, a two-man team of one header and one heeler. First, the header ropes the steer’s horns, head, or neck; then, once the steer is under control, the heeler ropes both hind legs, securing the steer between the two cowboys. Tie-down roping was used on Texas ranches to isolate and treat sick calves; the rodeo version is similar, pitting a cowboy and his horse against a quick-moving calf. The cowboy must rope the calf and then tie three of its legs together, rendering it helpless for at least six seconds.

Saddle bronc busting

This event derives from the earliest days of rodeo in Austin and is perhaps the “classic” rodeo event. The cowboy must remain atop a bucking bronc for eight seconds; scoring is based on the style and finesse displayed during the ride.

The Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo also offers bull riding events, country music performances, and a variety of other activities for the whole family. Every spring, the rodeo provides exciting events and a look back at Austin’s cowboy past, combining entertainment with education. The Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo truly has something for everyone to enjoy.

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Source by Joe Cline
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