Ride ’em high, watch ’em fly, at the Snake River Stampede!

It’s rodeo season here in the Treasure Valley! Right now, one of the biggest rodeos in the nation is going on. Yep! A top 10-rodeo takes place right here in Idaho!

The Stampede's new logo

The Stampede’s new logo

The Snake River Stampede, which is celebrating its 99th year this season, runs for almost a week. A whole week of bulls, broncs, mutton-bustin’, and cowgirls and cowboys! The Stampede draws the top cowgirls and cowboys in the nation coming to ride for a chance to win some of the $400,000 in prize money.

Cowboy line-up

Cowboy line-up

The Stampede descended from the Nampa Harvest Festival which was first staged in Nampa in 1911. The festival featured crop and stock exhibits, prizes for the best products of Nampa farms and gardens, sports, contests, special attractions, and other amusements. It was held after the harvest in late September

In 1913, the Harvest Festival committee decided to add a bucking contest. Spectators stood outside a roped-off area and cheered on the riders.

The bucking contests gained popularity and continued into the 1920′s. Gradually, other events were added, such as calf roping and bulldogging. By1923, the bucking show was a major part of the Harvest Festival, but it still did not have a name of its own. Ed Moody, a rancher outside of the Treasure Valley,  herded the bucking stock over from his ranch near Horseshoe Bend, about 50 miles away, and furnished the event’s bucking stock until 1937.

The year 1937 marked the push that turned the rodeo into a national event. The rodeo separated from the Harvest Festival and moved its dates to July. They joined the Rodeo Cowboys Association and from that day forward, the Stampede has been a professional rodeo. A new name was chosen. After considering such names as Ski-Hi Rodeo and Thunder Mountain Round Up, rodeo director Ike Corlett named it the Snake River Stampede. Lights were installed on the rodeo grounds and it was changed from an afternoon to a nightime show. Professional rodeo stock contractor, Leo Cramer of Montana, was engaged to put on the rodeo.

Bucking horses for the 2014 Stampede.

Bucking horses for the 2014 Stampede.

President Franklin Roosevelt, at his home in Hyde Park, New York, pressed a golden telegraph key which opened the spectacular new rodeo. This telegraph key was studded with the first 22 nuggets of gold found in Alaska and had been used by presidents since 1909 for such events as starting the operations at the Panama Canal and setting off the power generation machinery at Boulder Dam. Roosevelt pressed the key at 11 p.m., which was 8 p.m. Nampa time and the newly organized Snake River Stampede was under way.

In 1950, a new state-of-the-art horseshoe-shaped stadium, seating approximately 10,000, was built and a top western star was brought in to entertain at half time during the rodeo. Gene Autry was the first star of the Snake River Stampede and he filled the stands every night. Many more who were unable to get in, for lack of room, stood outside in the park to listen to him sing. Others who followed him included Roy Rogers & Dale Evans, Rex Allen, and the Sons of the Pioneers.

Old Stampede Stadium Photo Source

Old Stampede Stadium
Photo Source

During the 1970′s and 1980′s, following the demise of Hollywood singing cowboys and television western starts, famed country-western singers came to the Stampede. Included among those were Reba McEntire, Glen Campbell and Barbara Mandrell. The Stampede was the first show in which McEntire, a former rodeo barrel racer, was a headline entertainer.

It was during the 1980′s that the Stampede exchanged the western singing stars for more rodeo events. The stars were dropped from the schedule of events and team roping and ladies barrel racing, plus the Wrangler ® bull-fighting event were added to the lineup.

In the 1990′s, a popular kid’s event, mutton busting, was also included in the night’s schedule. The Miss Rodeo Idaho contest is also now held in conjunction with the Stampede week.

Miss Rodeo Idaho 2014, Hali Stutzman

Miss Rodeo Idaho 2014, Hali Stutzman

After years of planning, the world-famous Snake River Stampede moved into a new home in 1997. The familiar old green arena, which was built in 1950, was retired after the last performance of the 1996 Stampede and the rodeo moved to its new home indoors at the Ford Idaho Center located just off exit 38 on I-84. The modern, air-conditioned facility offers a seating capacity for up to 10,000 spectators in an oval rodeo configuration, giving every seat a great, close-up view of the rodeo action.

Bulls. Hey! Want to ride one?

Bulls. Hey! Want to ride one?

History of the Snake River Stampede taken from their website, found here

The Snake River Stampede is also home to the world-famous Snake River Stampeders, a drill team of ladies who perform complicated maneuvers on horseback. In the dark. At full speed. Wearing rope lights. The Stampeders have performed  four times at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas and  also rode at the 2002 winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. In 2002, they were invited to ride for the nation’s governors during the National Governors’ Conference

There are many things that make the Stampede beloved by the tens of thousands of fans who attend each year. The Stampede has wonderful announcers, who announce from horseback in the arena. The rodeo clowns, who not only entertain the audience, but are also there to provide protection to the cowboys by distracting the bulls so the cowboys can get to safety. The rodeo queens, carrying flags. The mutton-bustin’, where little kids ride sheep. The prayer and Pledge of Allegiance before each night begins. The 4-H’ers and other groups selling concessions. The bulls, the horses, the 8 seconds. And the Snake River Stampede song.

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If you’re in Idaho in July, make time to come to the Snake River Stampede. If you’re not, find the rodeo closest to you here, and go cheer on the riders as they try to stick for 8 seconds, throw the quickest head and heel, or loop the barrels the fastest!

Flag Riders

Flag Riders




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2 Responses to Ride ’em high, watch ’em fly, at the Snake River Stampede!

  1. Greg West says:

    I hate to tell you this, but the photo of the cowboy saddle bronc riding was taken at the Pendleton Round-up. My guess is the photo is pre-1950 as the LDS church in the background is under construction. Photo credit is not given but I would bet it was taken by Bus Howdyshell, Howdyshell was a fearless rodeo photographer.

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