History of Cody and Rodeo
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History of Cody and Rodeo

Rodeo Capital of the World

Cody is the "Rodeo Capitol of the World." From the turn of the century, rodeos and parades have been part of the 4th of July here in Cody, Wyoming. Officially starting in 1919, the Cody Stampede rodeo has been held every summer this event established Cody as not only one of the longest running successful professional rodeos, but also the only place in the country that has a rodeo performance nightly. The Professional Rodeo Cowboy's Association named the Cody Stampede "Best Large Outdoor Rodeo of the Year" in 1998 & 1999. In 2001 the Cody Nite Rodeo was nominated for "Best Small Outdoor Rodeo of the Year."

Night after night, Cody proves that we are rodeo, all summer long! With our two distinct rodeos, the Cody Nite Rodeo every night from June 1st - August 31st, and the Cody Stampede July 1st - 4th, we continue to make our mark in the rodeo world. Rodeo's history in Cody started over one hundred years ago with Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show. Buffalo Bill was quick to recognize the fascination the public had for the Wild West and the need to preserve a part of what was soon to become civilized. Tryouts for the Wild West Show were held right behind the Irma in what is now the parking lot. Theses rodeos, tryouts and parades were common although the Wild West show itself was never formally held in Cody.

In 1913 Buffalo Bill closed his Wild West Show for the last time. That summer he hosted one last parade and rodeo in Cody for the prince of Monaco. Buffalo Bill passed away in 1917, ending a fascinating chapter in the story of the American West. In 1919 Clarence Williams spear headed the effort to establish a rodeo celebration to Cody to commemorate Buffalo Bill Cody and the "Old West" he personified. Williams timed the event to coincide with the day the East Gate opened into Yellowstone Park running from June 23 to June 25, 1919. The following year, with Caroline Lockhart as president, the Cody Stampede was moved to the 4th of July. After the parade and rodeo, dancing and gambling were a part of the celebration at night in the Wolfville Hall.

In 1938, Carly Downing a former Wild West show performer, started the Cody Nite Rodeo, or Pup rodeo, as it was called then.

The Nite Rodeo quickly became an important part of the Stampede and the Cody community. It provided income for the Stampede and brought cowboys from all over the country to compete and show the "Wild West" to travelers all summer long. Many of the rodeos top bucking stock and famous cowboys come from Cody Rodeo. "Come Apart", a Wyoming saddle horse decided he liked to buck and went on to be one of the best of his time. Famous Freckles Brown and Cody's Mel Stonehouse started riding at the Nite rodeo in 1938. Freckles went on to be 1962 world champion bull rider and Mel was a top competitor in all three riding events in the 30's & 40's. Cody's tradition to produce World Champions has continued with such names from all over the country as Jim Houston, Chris LeDoux, Tom Ferguson, Deb Greenough, and Dan Mortensen. Cody's own World Champions and Pro Rodeo Hall of Famer's include Bill Smith, Mel Stonehouse, Cecil McMillian, Nick Knight, Floyd Stillings, John Kirkpatrick, Normal Price and Arthur Holman. Cody is, and always will be, Rodeo!
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