Swanny Kerby, stock contractor and famous rider in the Moab area was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1997. Pictured, Kerby at the Evanston Rodeo (no date) [Moab Museum Collection]

Moab has maintained the image of a wild west town since its founding at the beginning of the 20th century. Cattle companies, drivers, and stockmen brought money to the area and much of the economy was based around the trade of cattle. But it wasn’t until the early 1920s when the popularization of the stockmen’s competition, or rodeo, came to the Moab Valley. 

Rodeos began gaining popularity in the U.S. in the 1860s and 70s as a source of entertainment and competition, but it took another fifty years for rules, judging, and regulations to develop. The Professional Cowboys Rodeo Association was founded in 1936, following the establishment of the Rodeo Association of America, to formalize the sport. 

“Moab will have a big stockmen’s celebration this fall, probably in October, if the plans of a large number of local people are carried out,” The Times-Independent reported in September of 1920. “The plan is to hold a number of high-class racing events, offering prizes which will attract horses from all over this section of the country. There will also be bronco riding, steer roping, and other cowboys’ sports.” 

However, the event fell through, and it wasn’t until the Moab Chamber of Commerce approved the event in 1922 that the fair was held, providing much excitement for the community. 

This year, the Grand County Fair and rodeo is set to take place from June 30 to July 4 at the Old Spanish Trail Arena and with it a celebration of Moab’s roots. 

The Moab Museum is dedicated to sharing stories of the natural and human history of the Moab area. To explore more of Moab’s stories and artifacts, find out about upcoming programs, and become a Member, visit www.moabmuseum.org.