For the last three decades, the Western Heritage Classic has provided tourists and Abilenians alike three days of rodeo and cowboy entertainment. This year’s event, scheduled for May 8-10, includes a rodeo, shopping, a chuck wagon cook-off, cowboy poetry and music, and a stick horse rodeo for kids. The weekend brings more than 35,000 visitors from all across the world to Abilene.
Just the Facts
What: Ranch rodeo, music, cook-off, poetry and art, horse races, demonstrations
Where: Expo Center of Taylor County, 1700 Hwy 36 Abilene, Tx
When: May 8-10, 2014, 7:30 a.m. – midnight.
Admission: Grounds passes (per day) for Friday and Saturday only, ages 13 & up,
$7 Friday/$10 Saturday. Children ages 5-12, $5.
Ranch rodeo tickets (includes grounds admission for that day): $25 Friday (includes
admission to dance following rodeo), $30 Saturday.
Dance tickets: $5 Friday (included with Ranch Rodeo ticket) and $10 Saturday
Chuck wagon meal tickets: $15
Rhinestone Round Up: $100 per person
Free parking: Taylor County Expo Center parking lots are located on the east, north, and west side of the grounds.
Detailed schedule and event info: westernheritageclassic.com
In 1985, local cowboys formed teams to compete in authentic ranch activities to determine the best working ranch. The event not only challenged the participants but drew a crowd and provided support for a local charity. As the event grew, organizers aimed to build a prestigious event that would preserve western heritage traditions. Activities are designed to reflect the essence of cowboy lifestyle and history.
Ranch rodeos demonstrate the everyday skills of cattle ranching. As compared to traditional rodeos, ranch rodeo events typically create a more genuine presentation of real-life ranch work. Almost all are team events rather than individual competitor events. Teams usually consist of 4 cowboys and include penning, branding, cow milking, doctoring and bronc riding.
The Western Heritage Classic Ranch Rodeo is by invitation only. To be invited, a ranch must have historical significance, be a working ranch with a minimum of 10,000 acres, and team members must be full time employees of the ranch. The competing 2014 ranches will be Guitar Ranch, Haythorn Ranch, Pitchfork Ranch, Green Land & Cattle Company, Matthews/Nail Ranch, Spade Ranch, Muleshoe Ranch, Swenson Ranch, Stuart Ranch and Tongue River Ranch.
Visitors can tour the world’s largest bit and spur show to buy, sell, trade or browse collectible, antique and contemporary western items. Other wares include home décor, furniture, children’s toys, artwork, saddles, tack, pet accessories, and clothing.
The Western Heritage Classic chuck wagon cook-off and lunch was featured on last year’s ABC show The Chew as part of their “Ultimate BBQ Cookout Countdown” and was ranked No. 3 out of the top five. The chuck wagon cook-off includes competitors from across the southwest who bring authentic chuck wagons to compete for the best of show and taste. Cooking teams prepare chicken fried steak, bread, potatoes, beans and dessert using metal and cast iron cooking tools, over an open fire, with basic ingredients – no modern kitchen appliances. The teams make enough food to serve 900 people.
Western Heritage Classic invites fiddle players to compete in the Old Time Fiddlers Contest featuring classic western sounds. The Cowboy Poetry & Music event gathers poetry writers and songwriters to share humor and history passed down from pioneer campfires and bunkhouses of the great cattle ranches. After the conclusion of the ranch rodeo performances, you can dance the night away with Stoney LaRue on Saturday night.
At the Rhinestone Roundup on Friday, May 9, cowboys and community supporters join in celebration of Abilene’s western heritage. Two of Abilene’s quintessential cowboys are teaming up for the evening: cowboy cuisine by Tom Perini of Perini Ranch and cowboy crooning by country music artist Aaron Watson. Proceeds from Rhinestone Roundup will benefit two non-profit organizations: the Taylor County Expo Center and Frontier Texas! museum.
Saturday morning, Griffin Arena will be overrun with children of all ages for stick horse barrel racing, bronc riding, steer dummy roping, and boot racing. Pre-registration is required.