Let ‘R Buck
Writer Joseph J. Airdo
Photography by Sam-Sin Photography
After a year of lockdowns, canceled events and social distancing from one another — including our family, friends, neighbors and other loved ones — the need and desire for the traditions that we hold dear has been made abundantly clear. In the town of Cave Creek and its surrounding communities of Carefree and North Scottsdale, those traditions are steeped in Western heritage.
“During the recent pandemic, there have been a lot of ups and downs,” says Kristin Lewis, spokesperson for Cave Creek Rodeo Days. “Yet one thing that has been consistent is the drive to keep the Western heritage alive and kicking in an effort to maintain some level of normality and tradition.”
Cave Creek Rodeo Days — an annual event that draws thousands of visitors to and creates a noticeable influx of consumers in the area — is one of the premier traditions that helps to sustain that Western heritage.
Cave Creek Rodeo Days stayed the course last year to maintain tradition but did so without any attendees, partnering with the Cowboy Channel which nationally televised the local event. This year, it will triumphantly return to an in-person format, giving rodeo fans in the community and across Arizona a reason a celebrate.
Cave Creek Rodeo Days will host its 45th annual event this month, preceded by a May 25 golf tournament. Three Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association performances will take place throughout the May 28–30 weekend, consisting of bull riding, saddle bronc and bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, tie-down roping and barrel racing as well as the popular breakaway roping competition.
Cave Creek Rodeo Days President Beth Cornell notes that this year’s event would not be possible without the help and support of sponsors, advertisers, local businesses and the community.
Adding that it is a significant challenge to get people to dedicate numerous hours of their free time — without compensation — to put on such an elaborate event, Cornell especially credits members and volunteers with Cave Creek Rodeo Days’ remarkable success over the past 45 years.
“Cave Creek Rodeo Days has more than 160 volunteers from its board of directors to the person who helped you park your car,” she explains. “All of our volunteers donate their time to ensure the town of Cave Creek has this wonderful event. If you see or meet one out there, please thank them.”
Lewis says that maintaining Cave Creek Rodeo Days as a tradition is important to the town of Cave Creek’s historical identity.
“No matter what horse you ride, Creekers like to be free and roam the desert the town was founded on,” she explains. “This unique town is what the definition of rodeo is: an exhibition of belief and heritage to the Western code and lifestyle.”
Lewis adds that over the years, rodeo has evolved as a natural desire of local ranches to see who had the best hands.
“After months of strenuous labor moving cattle throughout the country, cowboys would get together and compete,” she says. “As a form of amusement, cowboys would gather and compare their roping and riding skills. This friendly competition and end of the trail celebration has grown into the rodeo events we know and love today.”
Cave Creek held its first rodeo in 1977 in an effort to energize the community, assist in raising funds to create Cave Creek Memorial Arena, provide donations to local charitable needs and bring the major economic benefits of the professional sport to the town.
Since then, Cave Creek Rodeo Days has grown and attracted interest from the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association.
“The West is filled with all types of characters — from clowns to cowboys all the way down to every unique individual who attends,” Lewis says. “There is a sense of tradition here in Cave Creek — where they come from, what they stand for and who they are. Cave Creek Rodeo Days proves that our Western heritage is alive and well.”