Payson, Arizona is where rodeo began. Known since its inception in 1884 as “August Doin’s”, the annual World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo in the United States is a world famous event that will celebrate its 125th consecutive year in 2009. Other annual rodeos held in Payson include the Payson Spring Rodeo the action packed Jim Barrett Memorial High School Rodeo, and the Gracie Lee Haught Memorial Rodeo.
The first rodeos in Payson were held to provide local ranchers and cowhands a chance to get together and compare their roping skills and cow ponies during the annual “down time” before the big fall roundup. There were only a couple of events in those early rodeos, but it was not long before cowboys from all over the state were showing up to compete in new events like bronc busting, bull riding, and steer roping.
Early Payson rodeos weren’t held in fancy arenas. In fact, the original venue was a meadow near the intersection of Main Street and Highway 87/The Beeline. Wagons and later autos created barriers to form the ‘arena’. An extra attraction: gambling tables were set up in the open street, especially at the intersection of Mclane Road and Main Street. But there was a wholesome side to those early rodeos as well. As local historian Jinx Pyle put it, they became week-long celebrations that “rivaled Christmas as a time when family and friends gathered for reunions and visiting”. Area ranchers would begin preparation weeks in advance so food would be ready to feed all the visitors and relatives.
August Doin's is still held the third weekend in August. Once named the country’s Best Small Rodeo (according to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, which sanctions the event), August Doin's attracts the best of the best from all over the world to compete for the substantial prize money. The week-long festivities include an old-fashioned parade, several rodeo dances, other rodeo-related activities, and of course the four rodeo performances themselves. Find more information on the August Doin's Celebration.