In 1921, citizens of Burwell, Nebraska decided to put their community on the map with an annual community celebration. They chose to begin a rodeo, which reflected the western heritage of the town. The first rodeo was held in September of 1921, and since that time nearly every professional rodeo champion who has pulled on a pair of boots has tramped through the historic arena of Burwell.
Local citizens have enjoyed the annual migration of these participants and the spectators that follow. In the early days NBR swelled and trainloads of people traveled from Lincoln and Omaha. Crowds of nearly 20,000 daily were squeezing into Burwell for wholesome family entertainment. The 1930’s saw Burwell become one of the important stops on the circuit of champion cowboys. Although times were hard and the weather was dry, the show at Nebraska’s Big Rodeo always went on and brightened the lives of many during a bleak time in history. In the 1940’s war years the rodeo was cancelled for the first and last time. At the request of the President of the United States, NBR did not appear in 1943, 1944, or 1945. However, the ’46 show saw the biggest crowds in the history of the event. In 1948 the rodeo expanded to include four performances to accommodate fans as well as top contenders of the time like Jim Shoulders and Casey Tibbs.
NBR stepped up with the times in the 1950’s and added specialty events such as trick riders and chuck wagon races to the schedule. The 1960’s saw a new breed of cowboys who flew into town for the vent and rodeo became recognized as a true “sport.” Event through the 1970’s saw the American agriculture economy take a turn for the worse, NBR continued strong. The faith and dedication of local citizen and volunteers kept the rodeo alive, and the reputation for quality entertainment at Burwell kept spectators coming.
The 1990’s and 2000’s have been a period of revitalization for both the community of Burwell and NBR. With the Calamus Lake nearby and the town’s small town, rustic appeal spectators are flocking the annual event that their parents and grandparents also enjoyed. NBR and the Garfield County Fair are held annually on the original 40 acres of grounds and facilities listed with the National Registry of Historic Places. The grounds include one of the world’s largest outdoor rodeo arenas, a ¾ miles track, original wooden covered grandstands and more.
Nebraska’s Big Rodeo
Nebraska’s Big Rodeo has a long-standing history as one of the biggest and best in professional rodeo and has been going strong for over 100 years! PRCA cowboys and cowgirls from across the nation travel to Burwell to compete and become part of this tradition. In 2010, Nebraska’s Big Rodeo was awarded the title of “Outdoor Rodeo Capital of Nebraska” and in 2011 Govenor Heineman declared the last week of July as “Nebraska’s Big Rodeo Week.” NBR has also received honors as a top mid-sized rodeo from the PRCA. In July, 2022 Nebraska’s Big Rodeo was blessed with their highest honor yet. The rodeo was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, CO. This event held on the Garfield County Fairgrounds is more than just a rodeo; it’s a production! With the best rodeo stock, sound company, scoreboard system, bullfighters, barrelmen, and specialty acts, Nebraska’s Big Rodeo is an event that fans won’t want to miss!
What is Nebraska’s Big Rodeo?
Nebraska’s Big Rodeo is about 2 1/2 hours of non-stop, action-packed rodeo entertainment that keeps spectators at the edge of their seats. Bull Riding, Saddle Bronc Riding, Barrel Racing and Team Roping are prime events at Nebraska’s Big Rodeo, but what makes this rodeo different from others is the many specialty acts. Burwell plays host to unique action such as the Wild Horse Race, Canadian Chuckwagon Races, the Dinner Bell Derby, Trick Riding and Roping to name just a few! For over 10,000 visitors to Nebraska’s Big Rodeo in a four day span, there are plenty of options for seating. General admission and reserved seating are widely available in the historic grandstands and for those who want to get closer to the action, there are skybox seats above the bucking chutes as well as beer garden seating in the “Bull Pen.” If fans miss a great ride, a 13’x17′ digital scoreboard and replay screen can cover all the best rides, runs, and buck-offs!
When is Nebraska’s Big Rodeo?
Nebraska’s Big Rodeo is held each year during the last weekend in July with four evening performances starting at 7:30 pm each night. Nightly performances allow spectators to enjoy other local attractions such as the Calamus Lake, fishing, hunting, water sports, golfing, state parks such as Fort Hartsuff, shopping, dining and much more!
Where is Nebraska’s Big Rodeo?
Nebraska’s Big Rodeo is located in Burwell, Nebraska which is in the heart of the United States and rodeo country! Burwell is a town of about 1,200 people that can swell to nearly 20,000 during the week of rodeo. People from across the state, nation, and world travel to Burwell to take part in the exciting week.