Little Britches Rodeo is far from getting old. Just about everyone in the rodeo world knows something about Little Britches, but not many know the story of how it all started.
In 1952, a group of rodeo enthusiasts held the first of what would become an annual rodeo for kids. The event—dubbed the Little Britches Rodeo—was held at the Arapahoe County Fairgrounds in Littleton, Colorado, and was by all accounts a smashing success.
Little Britches continued as a single annual event until 1961, when a national convention was held in Denver. There were representatives on hand from several states and the meetings ended with a national youth rodeo association being established with its headquarters in Denver.
Since that time, the National Little Britches Rodeo Association has grown by leaps and bounds. The Association has experienced its hard times, to be sure, but the overall goals and standards have never been compromised. The NLBRA continues to serve the interests of the Western-minded youth of the nation. According to its mission statement, “It is a non-profit venture to build sound, healthy minds and bodies—to develop character, self-reliance and good sportsmanship through competition in the great sport of rodeo.”
Today’s NLBRA is the standard bearer of junior rodeo in the United States. Each year some 2,000 kids from 21 states compete in more than 275 Little Britches rodeos. These events take place in 16 states across the nation.
From the beginning, NLBRA organizers have been committed to keeping the cost to contestants at an absolute minimum. Contestants compete for prizes such as saddles, buckles, gift certificates and, most importantly, college scholarships. This keeps the cost of competition down and allows kids, even those on a limited budget, to participate.
The level of competition at NLBRA events is second to none. Many collegiate rodeo athletes and a healthy number of professionals competed in Little Britches events in their younger days. Before Ty Murray became a legend by winning seven world all-around championships in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, he honed his skills in the NLBRA. Other Rodeo legends that began in the NLBRA are: Butch and Rope Myers, Kristie Peterson, Cody DeMoss, Tim Segelke, Royce Ford, Marlene McRae, Cimmaron Gerke, Randy Suhn and K.C. Jones.
In the NLBRA, the championship contest is the National Little Britches Finals Rodeo, which is held in Pueblo, Colorado at the Colorado State Fairgrounds.
Every year, more than 700 of the Association’s top athletes from across the country will gather in Pueblo, Colorado to take shots at 30 world championships.
The event has an overall economic impact of more than $10.5 million with contestants visible at local restaurants, hotels, stores and tourist attractions throughout the week. Most participants are accompanied by their parents and other relatives, making the rodeo truly a family-oriented event.
With more than 3,000 rides and runs taking place over six days on the Colorado State Fairgrounds, coordination and planning are a must for a successful Finals production. The competition area is divided into three arenas—rough stock, timed-event and track. And with three events going on at all times the action never stops, ensuring that there is something of interest for everyone from start to finish.
During the first five days of the rodeo, each contestant competes in two rounds for each event in which he or she has qualified for the Finals. After everyone has competed on two head or two runs, the top 15 contestants in each event become eligible to compete in the short round performance, the Championship Round, on Saturday. Finals champions are determined by points earned strictly at the National Little Britches Finals Rodeo, while world titles are awarded on the basis of regular-season points plus points earned at the National Finals.
Prizes up for grab include saddles and other tack, custom buckles and $40,000 in college scholarships.
Other Finals activities include the Royalty Pageant, various rodeo clinics, nightly dances, awards ceremonies, silent auction, NLBRA history display, and a weeklong Western Expo.