Small Town Welcomes Thousands for Big Rodeo


Nebraska’s Big Rodeo is a central Nebraska tradition now in its 93rd year, swelling the population in the small town of Burwell from less than 2,000 to 15-20,000.

Burwell leaders have said rodeo visitors generate as much as $750,000 in economic impact during the event, making it an important part of the community’s identity and vitality.

That’s true at Dry Creek Western Wear where the door stays open a little longer for a few days every July as they take advantage of thousands of Nebraska’s Big Rodeo-goers.

“There’s only one time in the last twenty years that the month of December has actually been a bigger month in sales than the month of July, so this is our key week of the whole entire year,” says Dry Creek co-owner Jodee Bolli.

Organizers say the rodeo draws fans to Burwell with a mix of working cowboy events like barrel racing, bull riding, and steer roping; and up-close entertainment like the wild horse race, trick riders and a dinner bell derby.

Board member Dale Seidel says community involvement and getting local amateurs like junior steer riders in with the professionals keeps the spirit of rodeo alive.

“[Young professionals] that’s what they are, they’re the next Ty Murray, the next Trevor Brazile - they might come from Burwell, we’ve got to give them a start,” says Seidel.

Another rodeo staple: chuckwagon races. Driver and this year’s rodeo grand marshal, Neil Salmond says there are more races in Canada, but he and his family have brought teams to Burwell for about 14 years.

“It’s kind of unique, it’s the only race track I know of in the U.S. that does this pony chuckwagon race other than just running in the arenas,” says Salmond of the oval dirt track that goes all the way around the rodeo grounds.

Salmond says besides the track, they love the fans and the atmosphere at Burwell.

“It’s definitely a unique rodeo and something we look forward to coming to every year,” says Salmond.

Garfield County Fair events are also going on at the same time as rodeo week. Rodeo performances continue on Friday and Saturday.

Click HERE to open the Nebraska’s Big Rodeo site.