History of the
Flint Hills Rodeo
the Flint Hills Rodeo started in a Chase County pasture.
Having an impromptu rodeo in a pasture in ranch country was
a fairly common practice several decades ago.
But to start a
rodeo and keep it going, that is an accomplishment. Making
that rodeo bigger and better over the years, this is
For this reason,
we consider the details of how the
Flint Hills Rodeo was born and raised to be a worthwhile
story to tell.
was only a simple two-bit show, the story may be less than
interesting. But the Flint Hills Rodeo started as the "home
court" of the Emmett Roberts family of Strong City, a clan
with half of the kids winning world championships in rodeo.
Red Dougherty, a former competitor, calls the Flint Hills
Rodeo a who's who of rodeo. The Flint Hills also is the
oldest consecutive rodeo in Kansas. These distinctions are
surprising when you consider what the Flint Hills Rodeo has
When Wally Evans of Emporia
spoke of the rodeo's early days, he often used the term,
"cobbled together." Evans was the last of the original Flint
Hills Rodeo board of directors. But cobbled together as it
may have been, the event quickly took shape and attracted
professional cowboys from other states to compete in time
for its second annual event in 1939 and each year ever
The Flint Hills Rodeo had the Cowboy Turtle
Association's stamp of approval in the early years, followed
by the Rodeo Cowboys Association's blessing, and in the most
recent years, the PRCA - the Professional Rodeo Cowboy
The Flint Hills Rodeo is
still at home in Chase County, in the cattle country of the
Kansas Flint Hills. This area's living history is seen in
herds of cattle grazing on the hills' bluestem grass.
Bluestem thrives in thin soil where stone is often just
below its root system. This grass has ties with the Flint
Hills Rodeo since each has found a way to thrive in spite of
its situation. Bluestem grows well in thin, rocky soil.
Flint Hills Rodeo prospers with even though its roots are
traced to beginning in the Great Depression, counting on
lots of volunteer help, continuing through wars and
weathering tough times in the cattle business. This rodeo is
a tried and true treasure which is put on each year, rain or
The story of the Flint Hills
Rodeo is what I call a braided tale. The Roberts family,
community people, local ranching, the Rodeo board, and the
Flint Hills themselves are woven often seamlessly into its
history. Additional plaits in the braid are weather, the
parade, rodeo cowboys and cowgirls, and the stock.
Roberts said he was the first to use a nine plait
braid in a rope for bull riding. Nine plaits make for a
sturdy rope that can be counted on when riding a huge,
unpredictable bull into the rodeo arena.
In the same way,
the Flint Hills Rodeo has ridden through the best of times
and the worst of times using a strong braid of
Cobbled together at
first, maybe. Tried and true over seventy years, without a
The Roberts Family Tradition
The Flint Hills Rodeo began
from a regular practice in the 1930's of staging pasture rodeos
at the farm of Emmett Roberts near Strong City, Kansas. 1937 is
marked as the birth year of the Flint Hills Rodeo. It was only
a natural step when Roberts along with his son Ken Roberts and
his son-in-law Eddie Boysen put on what they called the First
Annual Chase County Rodeo in 1938. The rodeo they hosted was
renamed the Flint Hills Rodeo the following year and has kept
going without fail ever since.
Today, the Flint Hills Rodeo
holds the distinction of being the oldest consecutive rodeo in
Kansas. The first full weekend of June finds the rodeo
convening in Strong City, using the same arena and grounds built
for the event back in 1948.