With more than 100 annual events on the calendar between May and November, it’s hard to drive through Montana and Wyoming without running into rodeo action somewhere. Stop. Buy a ticket. The bleachers are fine. These small-town rodeos offer a unique window into life here: Locals wear their Sunday best, and no one seems to mind the dust. Sitting on a sun-baked wooden bench, a beer in one hand and a bag of popcorn in the other, is the best first date in small towns like Livingston, Montana, or Ten Sleep, Wyoming, where they show off their best without hiding what’s real.

A rider being bucked off the back of a horse at the Cody Nite Rodeo.

At the Cody Nite Rodeo in Cody, Wyoming. Photo © CGP Grey, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Montana Rodeos

Miles City Bucking Horse Sale (third full weekend in May)

http://www.buckinghorsesale.com/

Since 1914, the country’s best bucking stock—and the most ambitious cowboys—have been showcased at this world-famous event in Miles City. The party atmosphere follows the crowds from the rodeo into town and every bar throughout the long weekend for concerts, street dances, and a good old small-town parade. Don’t be surprised if you see cowboys, carrying their saddles, hitching a ride to this event: For horses, bulls, and riders, this is the place to get noticed.

Annual NRA Gardiner Rodeo (mid-June)

Just outside Yellowstone’s north entrance, in the shadow of Electric Peak, the annual rodeo in tiny Gardiner includes all the standards—bull riding, saddle bronc riding, bareback bronc riding, steer wrestling, barrel racing, and breakaway roping—with a timeless small-town charm.

Augusta American Legion Rodeo and Parade (last Sunday in June)

Held in the hamlet of Augusta, at the edge of the spectacular Rocky Mountain Front, this is the largest and oldest one-day rodeo in the state. The town throws its biggest party of the year with rodeo action, a barbecue, a street dance, and even an art show.

Livingston Roundup (July 2-4)

http://livingstonroundup.com/

Offering small-town charm and a big-city purse over the Fourth of July holiday, this festive event puts Livingston on the map with big-name rodeo action, a popular parade, nightly fireworks, and more than 10,000 spectators that flood this riverfront community.

Wolf Point Wild Horse Stampede (second weekend in July)

http://www.wolfpointchamber.com/wolf-point-wild-horse-stampede.html

Montana’s oldest rodeo, the Wild Horse Stampede in Wolf Point, on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, is a three-day event that includes professional rodeo, daily parades and a carnival, the famous wild horse race, street dances, and a kids’ stick-horse rodeo.

Wyoming Rodeos

Thermopolis Cowboy Rendezvous (weekend after Father’s Day)

http://www.thermopoliscowboyrendezvous.com/

From tailgate parties and a Western dance to a pancake breakfast and parade, the small-town rodeo in Thermopolis ushers in the pro rodeo circuit for the Big Horn Basin with plenty of action and family fun.

Cody Stampede Rodeo (July 1-4)

http://www.codystampederodeo.com/

With all the showmanship one would expect from a town named after Buffalo Bill Cody, this professional rodeo lets the town shine with all the classic events including bareback riding, roping, steer wrestling, barrel racing, and saddle bronc and bull riding. The rest of the summer, visitors can get a true sense of small-town rodeo at the Cody Nite Rodeo.

Ten Sleep Fourth of July Rodeo (two days over the Fourth of July)

With a rodeo history that dates back to 1908 and includes some of the biggest names in the sport, Ten Sleep boasts rodeo action throughout the summer. Special events at the annual Fourth of July shindig include a Pony Express Ride from nearby Hyattville, a Main Street parade, an old-fashioned rodeo, fireworks, and a sometimes-bloody wild horse race.

Sheridan WYO Rodeo (usually the second week in July)

http://www.sheridanwyorodeo.com/

This is the biggest week of the year for Sheridan. There is a golf tournament, art show, rodeo royalty pageant, carnival, Indian relay races, parade, and street dance on top of four nights of pro-rodeo action.


Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Montana & Wyoming.