Belt PRCA Rodeo
Little Belt Cowboys Association
In 1955 several young ranchers from the Belt area sat around at the East Side Bar and talked about building a roping arena in the Little Belt community in the Highwood Mountains, where most of the cowboys ranched. The talk soon turned to action, which led to their first meeting held June of 1955, at the Burlingame school house where many of the cowboys had attended school. They voted Don Croff as their first President. The group initially called themselves the Little Belt Riding and Roping Club. It wasn’t until 1961 that the group voted to begin Professional rodeo in Belt, which was known at that time as RCA rather than PRCA.
Originally, the rodeo club planned to build their arena somewhere in the Highwood mountains, until the volunteer fire department suggested they build in Belt, so as to include more of the surrounding community. The cowboys’ first project was to cut, strip and truck poles from the Highwood Mountains and construct the first “rough draft”.
The first few years the ranchers met at the grounds with their own horses & stock and enjoyed competing among themselves in timed events, riding events and family Omoksees. By 1976, the record shows that the cowboys sponsored several events that year.
The Belt rodeo soon gained a reputation for being one of the best in the state. They switched from amateur to professional in 1961 supported by Oral Zumwalt stock. Other contractors over the years were Horace Raty, Sonny Linger, Jack Bloxham, Reg Kessler, Marvin Brookman, Bruce Ford and Don Jacobs.
Many cowboys were ‘home grown’ from Belt. But the real heroes were the support system behind the scenes. As the country western song goes, “You were the wind beneath my wings.” It was the parents, wives, husbands and children who gave of their time and energy to support these rodeo participants. It was the families and volunteers that stood in the shadows that deserve the rodeo buckles and trophies. Belt flourished because of rodeo and everyone had a role to play and played it well.
Many of the original ranchers who organized the original rodeo are still familiar faces in the Belt Community today. They are now watching their children and grandchildren participate in what many consider a high risk sport. Rodeo, like most sporting events today has become much more professional and run like a fine tuned machine. The cowboys receive a check for placing in all events and the specially bred stock is brought in by a well paid contractor.
50 Plus years of PRCA Rodeo - Rodeo families who love the sport have enjoyed the skills, wit and wisdom in this social arena for decades. A hundred years ago a rodeo was spontaneous, today it’s well organized. Many rodeo fans have headed to Belt every Father’s Day weekend for over half a century now and it’s not uncommon to see three to four generations either competing or watching the PRCA rodeo in June.
By Marilyn Pimperton