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Published June 17, 2013, 10:21 AM

Rodeo was a way of life before it was a sport

South Dakota celebrates a cowboy tradition

By: Capital Journal, Pierre, S.D., Capital Journal, Pierre, S.D.

PIERRE, S.D. — The sharp wind whipping across Fort Pierre, S.D., on a recent Saturday and the crowd of hundreds that gathered despite the weather to dedicate a sculpture garden celebrating South Dakota rodeo greats was a reminder, if we even needed one, that rodeo was a way of life before it ever was a sport.

It reminds us that cowboys needed to work cattle in all kinds of weather, and many of the rodeo events we now celebrate in places such as South Dakota’s Fort Pierre grew out of those daily tasks of roping and riding and breaking horses, rain or shine.

Now, rodeo has become the state sport of South Dakota, Wyoming and Texas.

But because it grew out of working cowboy culture, some of the key centers of rodeo will never be in urban areas. The centers of rodeo culture will remain in places such as Fort Pierre and other cowtowns up and down the Great Plains, where cowboys still go about a portion of their business with ropes and horses.

The Casey Tibbs South Dakota Rodeo Center deserves credit for recognizing Fort Pierre as one of the best places in the country to celebrate rodeo. The annual Match of Champions and the new sculpture garden unveiled recently both give people who care about Western culture one more reason to get off the interstate and make the short detour to Fort Pierre to learn what this community and its rodeo center can teach them about the cowboy way of life.

It’s a great way of developing what amounts to a largely untapped resource — the living history and traditions of the American West. It’s a great sport in a great town, and this is a great way to promote it.

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