How the Dream Began
The Rodeo of the Ozarks had its beginning as a dream in 1944 – the idea of a group of Springdale men and women led by founder, Shorty Parsons. World War II was at its height…people were working hard and around the clock. Entertainment and relief from the unrelenting headlines were needed. So, the idea of having a rodeo was born.
Why not have a rodeo? And, why not on the Fourth of July? Springdale had always been a patriotic town and on the Fourth the city park was always gaily decorated. The town band played, there were old fiddler’s contests, potato races, pie eating contests, and lots of fun. With the war almost over, there was even more cause to celebrate and a rodeo would be a natural.
Shorty agreed to be the promoter but they needed community sponsors. The Clarence E. Beely Post of the American Legion and the Chamber of Commerce stepped forward and rented the area behind the sale barn for $50.00. We were off!
The dates were set:
Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, July 1, 3 and 4. Walter Watkins, Kirby Beeler and Luther Johnson took charge of a caravan to travel to eleven towns in the area to promote the rodeo. Shelby Ford and Hays Miller made talks at each stop.
B.B. Brogdon was Parade Marshall when the parade rolled around. There were 200 horses in the parade along with the late “Doc” Boone and the original Hill-Billy Band. It rained out the show Sunday so it went on Monday.
Everything went wrong. The north side bleachers collapsed on Wednesday and sent 300 people to the hospital, none seriously injured. Springdale’s own Glenn “Pup” Harp won the steer roping. All in all it was a lot of fun and a huge success.
When the spring of 1946 rolled around, the town, under Mayor H.D. Ewalt was ready. They named the event the “Rodeo of the Ozarks.” The dates were July 2, 3, and 4. Harp was named arena director and Harry Williams managing director. But they wanted to have a professional rodeo.
The Chamber of Commerce agreed to back it but was afraid to take the financial risk. Now, back to Shorty Parsons, again. He agreed to be producer and promoter and take the gain or loss. Everyone went to work.
Shorty borrowed $29,000 to finance a permanent grandstand for 5,500 people and it was ready for the rodeo. Don Hoyt, the Chamber Secretary, invited Governor Ben Laney. There was $42,500 raised by subscription for prizes for the parade. Prize money for the rodeo was set at $2,000. Bryan Work and Bob Sharp were in charge of tickets. They did such a good job that their sales were not exceeded until 1962 – 16 years later! There were 8,000 people at the parade containing over 600 horses. Performances were sold out! It made money!