Lesson 1.6: Celebrating History: Frontier Heritage

History is preserved and celebrated in many ways— in textbooks, research studies, and even in community events and celebrations.


Cowboy/country poet Glenda Farrier reads one of her poems at the Smithsonian Festival.

The rodeo is one such event that preserves skills from an important historical period and encodes ideas of the taming of the American West. Community celebrations turn history into heritage by drawing upon the past for contemporary purposes. By interpreting such events we can learn about the past and its significance for the present.


Folklife Background

The Sidney Championship Rodeo is a community event that takes place every year in Freemont County. The rodeo held in Ft. Madison is another community event that takes place on a regular basis. The Sidney Rodeo is part of the “Prairie Circuit.” Competitors in the Sidney rodeo earn money which helps them qualify for competition in the national championship held in December in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The rodeo in Sidney has been an annual event since 1923. Many of the rodeo cowboys and cowgirls come from outside the region to compete, but Iowans are represented in most of the events. Each year thousands of dollars in proceeds from rodeo ticket sales and concessions are given to Sidney’s community organizations—to 4-H clubs, the local hospital, and the fire department, among others.

Almost every event in a rodeo is derived from practical skills that cowboys had to use in their jobs. Rodeo developed as a form of competition between cowboys during the latter part of the 19th century. Rodeo riders sometimes work in cooperation with their horses, as in calf roping. Rodeo riders sometimes compete against animals in events such as saddle bronc and bull riding. Common terms in folk speech such as “bronco busting,” “steer wrestling,” and “horse breaking” derive from activities at rodeos.

Other roles at the rodeo, like those of the announcers and the clowns, have developed as part of the entertainment function of the event.

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Students will be able to:
1. Analyze a community event.
2. Identify how history is represented through community celebration.
3. Express social commentary through poetry.

Cross References

Instructional Program:

Prairie Voices Lesson:
Making a Living