Out on The Wild (Prescott) Frontier
I decided this summer I’m saddling up and heading out to Prescott Frontier Days, held over the July fourth weekend, to see the World’s Oldest Rodeo. What better time to go than for the 125th anniversary of the first rodeo?
Since 1888, Prescott has put on this “cowboy contest,” attracting more than 27,000 spectators with dances, parades, and even a golf tournament.
While you’re checking out The Oldest Rodeo, be sure to stop in at Prescott’s oldest bars, too. Whiskey Row makes up the 100-block of South Montezuma Street and is known for the numerous saloons that once lined the street. Things haven’t changed much since those old west days, especially at The Palace where you can still get that real Wild West feeling. Built in 1877, The Palace is the oldest watering hole in all of Arizona and on July 2nd, the Steve McQueen movie Junior Bonner will be shown to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the movie that was shot on location in Prescott.
128 Years Can’t Be Wrong
Prescott’s rodeo might be old, but Payson, Arizona is where the rodeo all began, and I can’t wait to head up north for “August Doin’s,” and The World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo. Sanctioned as one of the featured Arizona Centennial Celebration events, the rodeo has been held the third weekend of August every year since 1884 and includes barrel racing and a parade down Historic Old Main Street. This year, the parade turns 128 and will feature bull riders and steer wrestlers.
A friend who lives in Payson told me I have to check out Scoops, an ice cream shop/coffee bar, when I roll into town. I have what one might call a “completely debilitating addiction to coffee,” so my first stop is usually the first coffee bar I find. Scoops offers hand dipped ice cream in flavors like pumpkin and Dutch chocolate, as well as specialty espresso drinks, like the lattes I drink all day. Coffee and ice cream seems like the perfect treat in between rodeos. Although, that’s probably not what the cowboys snacked on when the rodeo first started back in the late 1800s.
Prescott and Payson aren’t the only towns in Arizona with historic rodeos, however. Every February since 1925, Tucson has held the nine-day La Fiesta de los Vaqueros (Celebration of the Cowboys). Each year, the festivities begin with a parade through downtown Tucson. It’s packed with a stream of western-themed floats and buggies, historic horse-drawn coaches, festive Mexican folk dancers, marching bands and outfitted riders. An estimated 200,000 spectators watch the parade every year. Fun Fact: La Fiesta de los Vaqueros is billed as the world’s longest non-motorized parade, lasting over two hours.
While in Tucson, locals say you don’t want to miss out on trying a specialty burger from Lindy’s on 4th, and I’d have to agree with that. The last time I went, I had a Veggie Ninja Pineapple burger, which was topped with wasabi and ginger, and is as delicious as it is filling. Afterward, head to the Etherton Gallery in downtown Tucson's historic Odd Fellows Hall. This contemporary fine-art space is best known for the photography they display, but Etherton also houses paintings and sculpture as well as mixed media art, and perusing these creations makes for a fine afternoon between rodeo events.
Old Town Fun
Not to be overlooked, Scottsdale also has a rodeo. The 60-year-old Parada del Sol rodeo, kicks off with a parade that showcases Old Town Scottsdale’s pride. I was in the parade four years in a row as a kid and considered myself to be something of a parade-waving expert, although, I repeatedly dressed like a medieval princess and waved to the crowd even though the Parada del Sol is western themed.
Old Town Scottsdale has a ton of great art to explore and restaurants to choose from. I grew up around the area as a kid and I love wandering through the jewelry stores and discovering new local artists before heading to one of Scottsdale’s eateries. When I was little, I would always beg my parents to take me to Sugar Bowl, now that I’m an adult, I can go there anytime I want. Since 1958, this soda shop has been serving up scoops of ice cream to families, but it also features a full menu in case a grilled cheese or a burger is something you crave before a sweet treat. My suggestion? Their tuna melt makes a nice pre-sundae meal.
I always have a great time exploring the heritage of my home state. I highly recommend taking a break from your daily routine and get out and explore Arizona’s western flair. Rodeos are a unique way to learn about the traditions and rich culture that make our state so special.
Stephanie S. is a native of Arizona and an avid traveler who knows the importance of a good road trip playlist. The last adventure she took was to Tucson, but she looks forward to returning to Nutrioso, where she's spent many a summer exploring the trails and avoiding bears.
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Out on The Wild (Prescott) Frontier