Moab History: A brief history of rodeo in the Moab Valley

Swanny Kerby, stock contractor, inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1997, at the Evanston Rodeo [Moab Museum Collection]

Moab has maintained the image of a wild west town since its founding at the beginning of the 20th century. Cattle companies, drivers, and stockmen brought money to the area and the much of the economy was based around the trade of cattle. But it wasn’t until the early 1920s when the popularization of the stockmen’s competition came to the Moab Valley. Rodeos began gaining popularity in the 1860s and ‘70s as a source of entertainment and competition, but it took another fifty years for rules, judging, and regulations to develop. The Professional Cowboys Rodeo Association was founded in 1936, following the Rodeo Association of America, to formalize the sport. 

The Times Independent reported in September of 1920, “Moab will have a big stockmen’s celebration this fall, probably in October, if the plans of a large number of local people are carried out… the plan is to hold a number of high-class racing events, offering prizes which will attract horses from all over this section of the country. There will also be bronco riding, steer roping, and other cowboys’ sports.” However, the event fell through, and it wasn’t until the Moab Chamber of Commerce approved the event for October 13 and 14, 1922, that the fair was held, providing much excitement for the community. 

The fair has been absent from Grand County for the past two decades, however. This year, the event is set to take place from June 30 to July 4 at the Old Spanish Trail Arena, and with it, a resurgence in the rodeo. 

This article was originally published in the Moab Sun News.