History of the Homestead Rodeo
The first ever Homestead Rodeo was held at Municipal Park on November 11, 1949.
On February 1, 1952 the Homestead Rodeo Association was formed by seventeen original members; local businessmen who shared a love of horses and the excitement of the sport of rodeo.
The new HRA presented its first rodeo in March of 1952. In November of 1952 the first rodeo was held in a new permanent rodeo arena; which was a five acre tract just southeast of the ball fields leased from South Dade Farms. The HRA struggled to finance the rodeo through the early fifties, with members financing the organization out of their own pockets. In the mid fifties they decided to hold the rodeo only once a year & things began to prosper. The rodeo had now become a major event in the sleepy agricultural town of Homestead. The South Dade News Leader newspaper would publish a special rodeo section each year.
The current rodeo arena was first used in 1958 and was dedicated as Tom J. Harris Field in 1960. It sits on grounds of what was once the old Homestead City Airport. Through the sixties the rodeo attracted major crowds & was hosted by television stars of the day. The HRA was established as a non-profit organization in 1970. The rodeo successfully continued though the early to mid seventies then ran into difficulties. It struggled & declared bankruptcy in 1976. The members regrouped & reorganized to become successful once again.
Frontier Days began in the early eighties & ran through the mid-nineties. It grew to a two week long series of city-wide events leading up to Rodeo weekend. The whole town’s population & businesses joined in the western-themed celebration. Events included Pet Photography Portrait Day, the USO Celebrity Roundup Dance & BBQ, clogging demonstrations, a beard growing contest, a Senior Citizen Buffet Dinner and Dance, an Ice Cream Social, and an Antique Auto Gaslight Parade. (They were revived again in 2009 for the Rodeo’s 60th Anniversary with several events leading up to Rodeo Weekend, including “Kick Off Concerts” in Losner Park, “Family Night” at the Pavillion” and the ‘Buck-Off’ mechanical bull contest. For 2012 the renamed “Rodeo Days” events will continue on the same tradition.)
In 1989 the rodeo arena was re-dedicated as the “Doc” DeMilly Rodeo Arena in memory of the late HRA president Dr. John W. “Doc” DeMilly who was tragically murdered in 1985.
August 24, 1992 changed Homestead rodeo history forever when Hurricane Andrew destroyed the rodeo grounds. The 1993 rodeo was cancelled. HRA members worked hard to rebuild & rise from the destruction that gripped all of South Dade. It cost more than half a million dollars to rebuild the rodeo grounds.
The Southernmost rodeo in the continental USA was back in 1994 & carried on through the nineties. Huge crowds returned each year to celebrate the local tradition of PRCA rodeo events, specialty acts, the Homestead Everglades Posse Drill Team, and of course the rodeo parade downtown.
Into the 21st century, through membership changes, the HRA carried on its mission of promoting the sport of rodeo and other equestrian activities for the benefit of the Greater Homestead/Florida City community; developing and supporting our youth through these activities.
The Black Stallion Literacy Program began in 2001.This reading program for first graders has brought joy & education to thousands of young children over the years. First graders will never forget when horses visited their school and their field trip day to the rodeo.
The HRA supports several equestrian related groups each year including the Homestead Jackpot Rodeo and the Miss Rodeo Florida Pageant.
Since 2004 the HRA has entered a float in the Annual Jr. Orange Bowl Parade winning three awards for out float presentation in the last several years.
In 2007 the HRA started “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” night for its Friday night performance. Contestants and spectators alike come dressed in pink to show their support of breast cancer research. Donations are accepted and items are sold to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Race for a Cure. Thousands of dollars have been donated each year to this cause.
In 2011 the HRA joined on to the PRCA ‘Wrangler National Patriot Program”. This program is to raise awareness & support for a local military related charity.
2020 marks the 71st Anniversary of the Annual Homestead Championship Rodeo. Visit us again soon & watch for updates.