Rodeo capital comes alive

Travel through Mount Isa at any time of year and you can’t help but notice that it is branded as the Rodeo Capital of Australia. The Rodeo Capital of Australia logo is on the city’s water tanks, street signs, Council vehicles and the memorial to the city’s founder. One of the streets in the centre of the CBD is tiled with the names of the Mount Isa Rotary Rodeo All Around Cowboy winners and has been named Rodeo Drive in honour of the world famous event held over the second weekend in August every year.

To really gain an appreciation of why Mount Isa is deserving of this illustrious title, visiting the city for Rodeo Weekend, and the week leading up to it, is a must – as is gaining an insight into the history of the Rodeo and the community spirit behind its rise from humble beginnings to the biggest event on the Australian Rodeo calendar.

The Mount Isa Rotary Rodeo was born out of the desire of the city’s fledgling Rotary club to ‘THINK BIG’. The first Rotary Club in Mount Isa had been in operation for only a few months and had successfully completed a number of small community service projects, however the Community Service Director thought the club needed to tackle a big project, one which would put Mount Isa on the map. And so the idea of staging the rodeo was unanimously and enthusiastically adopted. There was only one obstacle – none of the club members had ever been involved in organising one, in fact most had never seen a rodeo before!

With no ground, no stock and no experience, a rodeo organising committee was formed and set about the task of staging the first ever Mount Isa Rotary Rodeo. In 1959, through the dedicated efforts of the Mount Isa Rotary Rodeo Committee, the Cloncurry Merry Muster Committee, the Mount Isa community, Mount Isa Mines and other local sponsors, the first Mount Isa Rodeo was held.

Stories of the atmosphere and spirit of the Mount Isa Rodeo began to spread through the circuit and the next year all five of the top riders returned without needing an invitation, and brought a swag of other competitors with them. The rest, as they say is history.

Over the years the Mount Isa Rotary Rodeo has grown into the third largest rodeo in the world offering over $200,000 in prize money and is an absolute ‘must’ on the Australian Professional Rodeo Association (APRA) circuit. It also attracts some 5,000 visitors to the city for the weekend and crowds of over 20,000 to the rodeo events alone.

The popularity of the event, and the continuing enthusiasm of the Mount Isa community has resulted in the city hosting a week long festival. Friday night sees the city streets lit up for the Mount Isa Mines Mardi Gras, one of the biggest nights of the festival with thousands lining the streets for the parade, and enjoying the carnival in the park. The weekend sees the sunrise on the first day of rodeo events where riders from all over Australia put their standing on the line for a share in over $200,000 worth of prize money and the prestigious title of Mount Isa Rotary Rodeo Grand Champion.

In 2004, in recognition of the ongoing enthusiasm of Rotarians, the high level of community involvement and the ongoing support of loyal sponsors and spectators, Mount Isa City Council, Platinum sponsors of the Rodeo, registered the trademark ‘Rodeo Capital of Australia’, to ensure the Mount Isa Rotary Rodeo retains its reputation as the biggest and best in Australasia. Since then the Rodeo Capital of Australia logo and the slogan has become a prominent icon in the city.

The 2006 Rodeo was a nostalgic event, marking the final year it was held at its home of 47 years, the legendary Kalkadoon Park. It was be a time of reflection for many and an inspirational vision of the future for those anticipating the potential the move to the multi million dollar Buchanan Park complex offered.

The new complex, situated in the heart of the city comprises a world class rodeo arena with stadium and ground seating for over 4000.

This visionary project, initiated by Mount Isa City Council in consultation with key stakeholders and primary user groups, provides the Rodeo with the opportunity for further growth which was limited by the aging facilities at Kalkadoon Park.

The move to Buchanan Park resonates with the same ideology that inspired the original rodeo, an ideology that is the foundation of the Mount Isa community, ‘THINK BIG!’