History of the PRCA
Until the turn of the century, early rodeos were informal events – exhibition matches of skill, with nothing but pride and perhaps a few wagers at stake. But as audiences grew, promoters began to organize annual contests in specific locations as well as traveling Western shows.
Rodeo organizations remained fragmented until the late 1920s, when the Rodeo Association of America, comprised of rodeo committees and promoters from across the U.S., named its first champions.
The first true national cowboys’ organization emerged in 1936, when a group of cowboys and cowgirls left a performance at Madison Square Garden and boycotted the promoter’s next rodeo, in Boston Garden. They forced one of the biggest rodeo producers of the times, Col. W.T. Johnson, to listen to their demands for better prize money and judges who understood rodeo. Johnson gave in, under duress, and the Cowboys’ Turtle Association was born – a name they picked because they had been slow to act, but had fi nally stuck their necks out for their cause.
In 1945, the Turtles became the Rodeo Cowboys Association (RCA), which in 1975 evolved into the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. The PRCA has experienced tremendous growth in terms of membership, national exposure, media coverage and sanctioned rodeos. Today, the PRCA boasts nearly 7,000 members (4,782 of whom are currently contestants) and sanctions a little more than 600 rodeos a year. The PRCA headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo., which includes the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy, opened in 1979.
In 2015, more than $46 million was paid out in prize money at PRCA rodeos, a figure the Turtles might never have dreamed possible. In addition, ProRodeo is telecast to more than 56 million households.
ProRodeo continues to bridge the traditions of the old West with the tools of the 21st century: Rodeo fans keep up to date with their favorite human and animal athletes by subscribing to the PRCA’s
ProRodeo Sports News magazine and logging on to www.ProRodeo.com and using Facebook.