In a region with more than its share of rodeos, Sidney, Iowa, draws on a 90-year history to distinguish its annual event.
Consider this: Sidney's Championship Rodeo, which wrapped up Saturday night, was expected to draw more than 25,000 over the course of five days.
The population of Fremont County, where Sidney is located, is 7,441, according to the latest census numbers. The rodeo grounds on the west side of town can seat 7,500 people in their concrete-and-steel covered grandstands.
“A lot of areas don't have the size of the complex that we have and the tradition that we have in Sidney,” said Dave Magel, 57, a member of the rodeo committee.
The rodeo began in 1923 as entertainment for an old soldiers reunion. The Sidney American Legion post assumed sponsorship and made it an annual event.
Over the years, the rodeo became a destination.
“There wasn't a whole lot of entertainment around here in this area,” Magel said. “When you mention the Sidney Rodeo, people say 30 to 40 years ago, that's where their family took their vacation.”
The 2013 Miss Sidney Rodeo is Hannah Hilsabeck of Winterset, Iowa. Performers included John Payne, known as the “One-Arm Bandit,” and the Two County Dusters equestrian drill team. Musical acts such as the Cowboy Up! Band performed.
While attendance is down from the peak years of the 1960s and early 1970s, when 50,000 to 55,000 fans attended, Sidney can still pack in a crowd.
“Some venues are great big and you sit a long way away from the action. In Sidney, Iowa, you are up close,” said Trevor Whipple, 35, president of the rodeo board.
“If you are in the very front row, you are two or three feet away,” Whipple said. “You might get a little sand in your hair or in your shirt.”
The Sidney Rodeo, like the one in Burwell, is a professional rodeo that draws cowboys who work a circuit that includes Dodge City, Kan., and Carson, Iowa.
Sidney, which bills itself as “'Rodeo Town USA,” is nearly 50 miles southeast of Omaha.