Nebraska's Big Rodeo

When Burwell residents put on a local rodeo in 1921, the event was so successful that they made it an annual affair and built a permanent facility.

Nebraska’s Big Rodeo (NBR), its official name since 1925, was soon drawing crowds of 20,000 people a day. The rodeo persevered through severe drought and economic depression in the 1930s, and became an important stop on the national circuit.

No official rodeo was held 1943-45 due to World War II, but the Dearmont Ranch south of Burwell hosted rodeos during this time. In 1946 NBR enjoyed the largest crowds in its history. It expanded to a four-day event in 1948. Legendary champions such as Jim Shoulders and Casey Tibbs were regular competitors.

By the 1950s NBR added trick riders, chuckwagon races, and horse racing. As in the rodeo’s early days, Lakota performers shared their culture through music and dancing.

NBR and the Garfield County Fair are still held on the original 40 acres. The grounds include one of the world’s largest outdoor rodeo arenas, a 3/4-mile track, and the original wood-covered grandstands.