Rugged cowboys, bucking broncos, dazzling fireworks: Get your fill of pure Americana at these great western shows
The fourth of July may be Independence Day across the country, but in the West, it’s also known as “Cowboy Christmas.” Historically, it was a rare day off for ranch hands, who would spill into town to show off their speed and strength by wrestling steers, roping calves, and riding bulls and broncos. What followed was an all-night birthday party for Uncle Sam. Today, the cowboy life lives on in rodeos, where millions of fans sit on the edge of their bleacher seats to watch roughstock athletes trying to hang on to bucking steeds, one hand in the air, for eight seconds. But you don’t have to be a longtime fan to get in on the action: Beyond the nail-biting competitions is a family-friendly scene that has a distinct state-fair flavor, often with western dancing, livestock showcases (cute baby-animal alert!), fireworks at night, and deep-frying smack-downs that involve lamb shanks and even Twinkies. From dusty high-desert corrals to outdoor arenas, here are three of the best in the West to check out this summer.