When I sit down to plan my rodeo schedule each year, I’m blown away by how many amazing places I’ve been able to visit. I’ve crossed off the likes of Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Cheyenne, Denver and more.
But each June, there’s one rodeo that I never like to miss. It’s not iconic or well known, but it lit the spark in my heart for the western industry many years ago and will always hold a special place in my heart.
My mom grew up in a small river town called Bellevue – it’s one of the last places in the country where you can feel the Americana spirit everywhere from main street to the state park. It’s the kind of place that’s served your favorite ice cream flavor for 40 years, and the same person hands you the cone every time you visit.
The Jackson County Pro Rodeo is held just outside of town off a dirt road, and it’s a place that I’ll always hold dear to my heart. Following a dusty line of cars to a high point in the road, you’ll find the arena tucked into the side of a hill. In the distance, you’re surrounded by vintage barns and the rolling country side. Food stands hosted by the local Cattlemen’s Club. Raffles, a tiny carnival and a small town band setting up in the old barn to play afterwards. Lawn chairs and blankets on the ground, where everyone sits together. It’s everything I love about Iowa and the Midwest.
Somewhere in my parents’ house, there’s a picture of an eight year old me, wearing a purple cowboy hat signed by the rodeo queen, clutching the fence during the performance. I still remember going behind the chutes afterwards to get autographs from the barrel racers and petting all of their horses.
Fast forward to last weekend, sitting on the same hill I did all those years ago, thinking about how those dreams all came true – barrel racing around the country, traveling to iconic rodeos to write about them and wear one-of-a-kind western wear, going to the NFR instead of watching it on TV – all of those dreams were fostered on these rodeo grounds. I was even able to work with a local boutique, The Humming Arrow, who outfitted me for the night – a dream I didn’t know could make it all the way back to Bellevue with me.
Now, as my dreams get bigger and are challenging me to travel further, I cling to those roots more than ever. That little girl I used to be just loved going to the rodeo in her mom’s hometown, simple as that. And no matter where my adventures take me, my heart will always be rooted in the heart of the Midwest, somewhere in the rolling hills.
I want to remind everyone who’s reading this that it’s okay to come from a place no one knows. It’s okay to have humble beginnings. It’s okay to cling to tradition, family, values and home. Remember the places that grew you and no matter where you go, never forget where everything started.
If you liked my rodeo outfit, make sure to check out The Humming Arrow mobile boutique. Nick is close to my heart as an Iowa boutique owner, and she also carries the western trends that are hard to find close to home. You can find them on their website here, or follow @thehummingarrow on Instagram for new arrivals and more!