Learn About La Fiesta de los Vaqueros

By Lynessa Corrales & Mike Korchmaros

Image courtesy of Mike Korchmaros

Okay, buckaroos and buckarettes. Get ready for this year’s Tucson Rodeo. The La Fiesta de los Vaqueros (Festival of the Cowboy) is celebrating its 99th year here in the Old Pueblo. It runs from Feb. 17-25. This year’s parade will follow a new route.

The new route will begin at South 12th Avenue and West Drexel Road. The route will head east on Drexel to South Nogales Highway. Then it will head north until it reaches East Irvington Road, just before reaching the rodeo grounds.

The parade starts at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 22. It is free for everyone. but grandstand seats are available to purchase. There is also a parking charge.

La Fiesta de los Vaqueros (or the Tucson Rodeo) has been a long-loved event right in the heart of Tucson, Ariz. From rodeo events to food and prizes, Tucson has been a popular spot in mid-February because of this annual event. Before this, Tucson was a mere frontier town populated by many different groups, giving a multicultural aspect to it.

The first rodeo event was on Feb. 21, 1925, right in the middle of Prohibition, a time in United States history when alcohol was criminalized. Though federal officials seized a lot of the alcohol, the rodeo still had an amazing turnout with plenty of events and prizes for the contestants. Some of the first prizes included a 750-pound ice block, a “Big Cactus” ham and 100 lbs-worth of potatoes.

Brian Trinh, a Pima Community College freshman, said, “the food there…is really enjoyable. And also I enjoy the bull riding in the rodeo.”.

The rodeo was a way for Tucson to have more mid-winter visitors from all across the country. Leighton Kramer, The president of the Arizona Polo Association, came up with this idea. Being a winter visitor himself, an event that encouraged bringing people together and admiring the skills of horses, handlers and others sounded like a perfect way to gather more visitors and give Tucson an upgrade. 

The events and the parade brought Tucsonans from different cultural groups together such as Tohono O’odham, Anglo-Saxons and Hispanics to showcase and celebrate their unique ways of holding rodeo events. Because the fiesta brought unity to Tucson, city leaders and The University of Arizona declared Feb. 21, 1925 a city holiday for all locals and out-of-towners to come together and celebrate age-old fun.

Because the city pretty much shut down back then and all the kids were at the parade, the local school districts decided to temporarily close down. This is why we don’t have school at this time of the year.

Speaking of the rodeo parade, we are lucky enough to have its claim to fame as the largest non-motorized parade in the country. This year is only the second time in its history that the parade route has been changed. The last time this happened was in 1991 from downtown to the southside.

All seats are reserved at the rodeo. You can purchase tickets online at TucsonRodeo.com or at the rodeo grounds (Sixth Avenue and Irvington Road). 

PCC sophomore Joseph O’Hanlon says he’s going for the bull riding and to buy a custom cowboy hat.

Western wear is encouraged. Check online for other specifics. Yippee Ki‐Yay!