Real Cowboy Assoc. saddles up for annual Juneteenth Black Rodeo - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Real Cowboy Assoc. saddles up for annual Juneteenth Black Rodeo


Yesterday was Juneteenth, the anniversary of the day the slaves in Texas found out they were emancipated after the Civil War was over.

One East Texas group celebrates that history each year by hosting a black rodeo, and they're getting ready to saddle up again this weekend.

The Real Cowboy Association is bringing the 19th annual Juneteenth Black Rodeo to Longview to celebrate the history of Juneteenth and the history of the black cowboy. This year, 300 black cowboys from all over the country are coming in to put on a show.

And as I learned recently, this rodeo has a nice history of its own. It got started because one man went to one East Texas rodeo -- but those rodeos were missing an important element for him, and he went out to change it.

"The very first rodeo I came to was here in Longview, and it was predominantly white. And those years I came and I saw it and I came back another year and I saw it again, and boy, it was really good," said Frank Penny Edwards, Founder of the Real Cowboy Association. "So I sat there and it really made me want to do it. It inspired me, greatly."

But there was one thing Edwards didn't find at those first rodeos.

"I'm looking around, I didn't see a lot of African American people here, didn't see a lot of people of color, so I said, hmm, let me flip the switch," he said.

Edwards made it his mission to bring a black rodeo to East Texas -- but first, he said, he had to find the right cowboys.

"Went to Boley, Oklahoma, it was probably 400 or 500 black cowboys there," he remembered. "African-American cowboys, a lot of the Creed were there, the Cheyenne cowboys -- I didn't know there was anything like them. I was in a melting pot of cowboys of color. Then I said, ok, I've got to get these guys to Longview."

Nineteen rodeos later, Edwards can't keep the cowboys or the fans away.

"We've got cowboys that's coming from about a six state area. From Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas City, Nebraska. We've got Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama cowboys, and a few from Florida that come," he said.

Edwards said part of the role of the rodeo now is to educate fans, both young and old, about the history of the black cowboy.

"There was a role that the black cowboy played in settling the west," Edwards said. "And back in the early 1800s, cowboys of color drove all the cattle up to the Panhandle.They did a lot of work."

But underneath all that history is a uniquely good time.

"A lot of people always ask me about what's different about the black rodeo? Well, it's the fans and it's the music. We began to play hip-hop, R&B, blues and old school music that our fans could identify with. And they all love it," Edwards said.

It's a show Edwards said the whole family will love.

"There's not many events left that you can bring the whole entire family and enjoy together. And so we just want everybody to get here," he said. "Just get here, we've got a show for you. We always say we've got the baddest show on dirt."

The rodeo starts at 8 p.m. Saturday night at the Maude Cobb Convention Center Arena in Longview.

The artists J-Dash and Donnie Ray will be on hand for entertainment.

You can pick up your tickets until 6 p.m. Saturday at the Cavender's stores in both Tyler and Longview.

Tickets are $10 before the show and $12 or $15 at the gate.

And if you're interested in trying out for the rodeo, you can go to the Maude Cobb Arena Saturday morning for trials. Edwards recommends arriving by 7 a.m. to sign up.

For more information about the rodeo or the Real Cowboy Association, visit their website.

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