A cowboy holds on for dear life to a bucking bronco
A rider holds on to a horse at the 2017 Canyonlands PRCA Rodeo. Credit: Moab Sun News File Photo

Another annual event is returning this year after a two-year hiatus: the Canyonlands PRCA Rodeo will run from Friday, June 3 to Sunday, June 5 at the Old Spanish Trail Arena. 

“We’re really, really excited to have a comeback this year,” said Krista Wilson, one of the rodeo organizers. 

On Friday and Saturday, doors open at 6 p.m.—the pre-show will begin at 6:30 p.m., and main show at 7 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for kids, or $55 for a two adult/three child family; there are also discounted tickets online. 

Sunday is Locals Day, Wilson said, and will be a matinee: doors open at 2 p.m. for a 2:30 p.m. pre-show and 3 p.m. main show. Sunday tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for kids, and $8 for seniors and veterans. 

Each show will begin with one of the most iconic and challenging events of any rodeo: the bareback riding event. During the eight-second ride, cowboys must move their legs in time with the bucking horse they’re riding, while also remaining seated. “It’s a tough way to make a living, all right,” says the rodeo’s website, “but according to bareback riders, it’s the cowboy way.” 

Each cowboy competitor is a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association—Wilson said most of the competitors come from Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, and Colorado. They’ll compete for money and the chance to qualify for larger events. The stock contractor, or the company that provides the animals, is Bar-T Rodeo, a family-owned business that started in Moab. 

The show will continue with a number of events. In steer wrestling, the steer wrestler, or “bulldogger,” tries to wrestle a steer to the ground as quickly as possible—the steer usually weighs at least twice as much as the wrestler, and the world record is 2.4 seconds. Team roping is the only team event in the rodeo: the two team roping partners are competing to catch and rope a steer in record time. A similar event is calf roping, in which a single cowboy must catch and rope a calf by tying three of its legs together. Barrel racing is also a timed event: the barrel racers ride their horses around a cloverleaf course of three barrels, and the fastest time wins. 

There will also be bull riding and saddle bronc riding. In each event, similar to the bareback riding event, cowboys must stay on a bucking bull or bronco for eight seconds. The events require extreme strength and balance. 

Bull riding “emerged from the fearless and possibly fool-hardy nature of the cowboy,” the rodeo’s website says. “The risks are obvious. Serious injury is always a possibility for those fearless enough to sit astride an animal that literally weighs a ton … regardless, cowboys do it, fans love it.” 

There are two kids’ events: mutton bustin’ and a stick pony race. In mutton bustin’, children race or ride sheep, with a prize awarded to whoever can stay on the sheep for the longest amount of time. Stick pony racing is a foot race through an obstacle course while holding stick horses or brooms. Sign-ups for those events will take place during the Moab Arts Festival. 

“[The rodeo] is very important to our community to remind us of our western heritage, and the roots we came from,” Wilson said. 
Online tickets and more information are available at www.moabcanyonlandsrodeo.com; tickets are also available at the door.