Freedom Rodeo History

(The following text is from the Freedom Chamber of Commerce)

Once upon a time in September of 1938, a group of men in "The Big Little Town" of Freedom, planned an event, known as a rodeo, for the young men in the area to test their skills against the calves, steers and each other. No previous rodeo experience and under 21 years of age were the entry rules. Those most often referred to as "founders" of the Freedom Junior Rodeo were: W.R. "Brad" Shaull, Frank Kamas and Rudy Eden.

As so often happens, these men of many years ago, even though they dreamed, could not have imagined how their idea would take hold of an entire community and become the "Biggest Open Rodeo in The West", held the third weekend in August each year in what is now lovingly referred to as the "Queen City of The Cimarron."

A real Chuck Wagon feed was started to honor the old cowhands and their wives of the area. In September 1939, 125 cowhands received an invitation to come to the feed and "join under one brand". The main items on the menu then, as now, consisted of beef, beans and black coffee with the beef being donated by local people and being prepared and served by the community minded group of volunteers.

Also in 1939 the tradition of having a Rodeo Queen was started, and to this day it is considered a true honor to be named Queen of the Freedom Rodeo. From 1939 thru 1955 the Chamber of Commerce selected the girl for Queen, but in the 1956, as an economic measure, the Queen Contest was started with all contestants selling advance rodeo tickets, At this time the contestants started receiving many nice gifts-a saddle, bonds, buckle, trophies, plaques and tiara, to name a few, plus a percent of their ticket sales.

Before the years of stock contractors, the stock was purchased by local men, who traveled the area and surrounding states in order to find the best stock possible.

In the beginning there was always a parade which started at the school house after the Chuck Wagon Feed, pranced down the main street and out to the rodeo grounds for the Grand Entry so the rodeo could begin at 2:00 p.m. The Chamber of Commerce has a colored film of some of these activities from 1940 which can be viewed by contacting the Chamber of Commerce.

Because the hearts of the people in our area have always been giving and civic minded, the profits of the 1942 Rodeo were all given to the U.S.O. which was Freedom's way of doing something to help the boys who were serving the Armed Services. Also in 1942 the wives of the Cowhands decided to have their own organization and meet at the same time as the Cowhands had their meeting, thus was founded the Cimarron Cowboy's Auxiliary.

Wanting to preserve a true statement of the Old Cowhands of the area, a plan was begun in 1943 to have a memorial to the Early Day Cowhands. The next few years were spent planning and raising money to bring this plan to a reality. Once again, in 1946, the giving spirit sprang forth and the profits of the rodeo were donated to the building of the Memorial.
Many will remember the fun of traveling on the booster trips to other towns in our area broadcasting the upcoming Freedom Rodeo.

By now, in 1948, the older cowboys wanted to participate in the rodeo so a spot was added for senior ropers. Public donations were given to install lights around the arena and so began the evening performances. The Rodeo has been managed by several different organizations through the years: 1938-54 Chamber of Commerce; 1952 Cimarron Roping Club; 1953-54 American Legion; 1955 Freedom Ropers Club; and finally from 1956 to the present Freedom Chamber of Commerce.

Only one performance of the rodeo has ever been cancelled and that was the Saturday evening performance in 1955 because of the terrible rain storm. Because of the cancellation, the Rodeo went in the red and the local cowboys and others came up with enough money to pay all bills.

1956 was the first year that an individual was selected to be honored at the Chuck Wagon Feed and Rodeo. Mrs. Lucy Snapp was chosen as the Pioneer-Rancher of Freedom Community to receive the recognition. The special honor has become a highlight of Rodeo time. The ladies Auxiliary now has the responsibility of inviting friends of the honoree, decorating the tables and planning a short program at the feed and Reunion.

Through the years the events have changed-mostly to go along with the times, but the rodeo itself has always met with the same response (VERY GOOD) thanks to the cooperative efforts of all.

Improvements are made yearly to the grounds. There are always two work days prior to the 3rd weekend in August and in many years it has taken much more volunteer time. With the addition of new and more bleachers, restroom facilities on both sides, concrete floors in concession stands, a new broadcast booth, bucking chutes, catch pens, fence, stock pens and much more room for parking cars, the Rodeo grounds are a top-notch facility.

In researching this history of the Freedom Rodeo, which was possible through the old copies of the Freedom newspaper and found in the musuem, it became quite clear that the people of the Freedom Community have a cooperative spirit and have always been, as they are today, interested in public and civic affairs, their community, and other people. The main goal of the volunteers who have donated many hours to the improvement of the Rodeo weekend has been to give the guests who attend a good show and hope they will come again.

Few individuals were named in this history but you can be certain of the fact that anyone you ever knew or heard of living in Freedom and the community around on both sides of the Cimarron, has helped with the Freedom Rodeo and Old Cowhand Reunion - some more than others and some longer then others - but one thing is certain: it takes the cooperation of everyone to bring about the success that the Freedom Rodeo has enjoyed for over 60 years. All indicators point to another successful 60 years, thanks to the continued work and cooperation of the newer generations taking their place in the community.
It was once written by a visiting newspaper man, about Freedom; "These people can adapt themselves to all manner of confections, but have the needed pep and energy to shape circumstances to their liking. Proof is the Rodeo and Cowhand Reunion. In the Shortgrass vernacular, they are a LIVE BUNCH". 

The Great Freedom Bank Robbery and Shootout

Freedom, Oklahoma, with its rustic western Main Street, the Annual Rodeo and Old Cowhand Reunion, the Cimarron Cowboy Monument, and many other historical points of interest, has quietly preserved its Western Heritage over a period of time when most cities and towns placed an accent on modernization.
One of the most recent reflections of days gone by and which is coordinated by the townspeople of Freedom erupts in a blaze of gunfire and smoke, when "The Great Freedom Bank Robbery and Shootout" unfolds Saturday afternoon of Rodeo Week-End on Main Street.
The characters involved in the "shootout" aren't paid professionals, and the

show doesn't employ a high dollar director. The participants are all local townspeople who volunteer "just for the fun of it". The cast includes merchants, business persons, ranchers, retirees, housewives, and yes - even the real banker himself.
You may have to use a little bit of imagination to ignore the paved streets, a few pickups parked here and there, and a whole bunch of other on-lookers but when a gang of gun-totin' misfits rides into this quaint little cowtown, stirs up the townsfolk, and decides to make off with all the money in the bank, you'll see, hear, and feel the real old west as all "HELL" surely does break loose...

Freedom's Old Cowhand Reunion and Chuck Wagon Feed

This ongoing tradition began way back in the year 1939, when members of the Freedom Chamber of Commerce decided to sponsor a reunion and chuck wagon feed in honor of the old time cowhands of this vast area who braved the perils and hardships of the range in search of their fortune.

Previous to the day of the reunion, invitations were sent to all old cowhands whose names & addresses could be obtained. One hundred twenty five invitations were sent out that first year, and back came enthusiastic assurances that nothing would week the old boys away.

Come they did, from Wichita to Arkansas, from Fort Supply to Woodward - a splendid group of old timers- meeting in a happy reunion.

The tradition continues to this day in light of a few changes over the course of time. The meal is still free to those who attend the gathering. The Chamber of Commerce now gears up to feed nearly a thousand folks beef and bean dinners on Saturday afternoon. A huge number of people donate not only beef for the meal, but also their time and effort to plan, prepare and serve for the occasion. it is a gala celebration, and it provides a great opportunity for young and old to reunite in celebration of our rich heritage. One of the most recent changes the Chamber has made to the reunion is to add a reminder of days gone by, and stage the event outdoors.

A focal point of the reunion today is a program to honor the year's specially selected "OLD COWHAND". One person is selected each year by the Chamber of Commerce, and is recognized for his or her pioneer spirit, dedication to the Freedom community, goodwill towards others, and for generally just setting a good old fashioned example for others to follow in our "cowboy" way of life.

 

For More Information
Freedom Chamber of Commerce:  freedomchamber@hotmail.com

Rodeo Tickets

Adults $12  •  $8 Advance

Children $6  •  $4 Advance

More Information

Freedom Chamber of Commerce