La Fiesta de Los Vaqueros is Tucson's biggest and oldest rodeo event — Photo courtesy of Tucson Rodeo - La Fiesta de Los Vaqueros
One of the biggest annual events in Tucson is La Fiesta de Los Vaqueros (Celebration of the Cowboys), a nine-day rodeo that has been a focal point of Tucson's event calendar since it debuted back in 1925.
The 2016 La Fiesta de Los Vaqueros, which is scheduled for February 20th through the 28th this year, is held at the Tucson Rodeo Grounds in south Tucson. Every year, the event draws about 60,000 locals and visitors, who come to watch the eight-seconds-to-glory action play out on the dusty rodeo grounds.
The Tucson Rodeo (as it's known colloquially) features current and former world champions from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA). It's the first major outdoor event of the year for the PRCA, and rodeo fans couldn't ask for a better spot to kick off the season. Tucson in February is usually filled with blue skies and mild winter weather.
More than 650 contestants from around the United States and Canada will be competing this year for more than $460,000 in prize money, according to rodeo officials. So you can expect to see a lot of grit, determination and fierce competition.
Along with a daily schedule of competitive action, the Tucson Rodeo also features a number of related off-site events. The biggest non-competitive event is the Tucson Rodeo Parade, which is described as the world's longest non-motorized parade. The parade, which lasts about two hours, features western-themed floats, horse-drawn carriages, local marching bands and riders, and Mexican folk dancers.
The Tucson Rodeo Parade is broadcast on local Tucson TV, but the best way to experience the colorful spectacle is by sitting in the grandstand viewing area along Sixth Avenue. Grandstand seats offer good views, along with commentary from professional announcers. Grandstand viewing tickets can be purchased for $10 for adults, or $5 for children under 12. Tickets can be purchased from the Tucson Rodeo Parade website.
Of course, you can always just line up along Sixth Avenue to watch the parade for free. This year, the parade is scheduled for Thursday, February 25th at 9 am. Get there early to catch some live Mariachi music and other pre-parade entertainment.
But what would a rodeo be without some post-ride partying? Every rodeo day from 4 pm to 8 pm, the grounds will host the Coors Barn Dance. The evening's barn dance will feature live music, cowboy grub and a chance to mingle with your favorite riders. Admission to the dance is $5 per person. Tickets will be available at the door.
Tickets to the rodeo's competitive events range in price from $14 to $70. To order tickets, you can call the Tucson Rodeo Grounds at (520) 741-2233, or you can purchase tickets at the box office.