the history of the will rogers memorial rodeo


rodeo program

Will Rogers was born in 1879 at a ranch house on the Verdigris River and the only towns that existed nearby were Vinita, Indian Territory (which later became Oklahoma), and Coffeyville, Kansas. After his mother died in 1890, Will was sent to several schools away from the ranch, but the one he grew to like the most was Willie Halsell College located in Vinita. He attended three terms, from 1892 until 1895 and he never forgot the happy days he spent there or the friends he made. Years later, while attending a school reunion in 1934, Will Rogers told the Vinita folks, "Have a rodeo here next year and I'll come back." He returned that fall for the old-timer's parade, but on August 15th, 1935, just days before the rodeo, Will Rogers and famed pilot Wiley Post were both tragically killed in a plane crash. It was decided that the Vinita rodeo would be held as a memorial to Vinita's cherished "son" Will Rogers, as it has been every year since. The Will Rogers Memorial Rodeo has become one of the most outstanding rodeos in the entire southwest.


rodeo post card

Vinita's American Legion Post 40, sponsor of the annual rodeo since it's inception in 1935, has spared no expense in making this rodeo one of the biggest and best. The large purse attracts the top cowboy champions of the nation. 79 years of experience has given the sponsors the know-how which makes the show perennially one of the nation's best.

old vinita rodeo photo