CODY, Wyo. — They call Cody the Rodeo Capital of the World, which makes the Stampede the town’s Super Bowl.
“Anytime I’m planning out that Cowboy Christmas run, Cody’s one I’m going to pick over anything else,” said bull rider Parker Breding, multiple-time qualifier at the Wrangler National Finals.
One-hundred years after its debut, the Cody Stampede has turned into the richest one-head rodeo in the world. But it wasn’t always that way.
“This, actually, when I first turned pro wasn’t that big of a rodeo. It was like $3,500 added,” recalled seven-time world champion Dan Mortensen, who owns six in saddle bronc. “Cody made great strides. They went from $3,500 to $5,000 to $20,000 added in just a few years, so it went from kind of an, ‘If you can fit it in’ kind of deal to one of the main stops over the 4th of July.”
Former NFR bull rider Scott Breding made sure to be here in 1995.
“It was the largest in my 4th of July run by all means,” Scott Breding said. “I think I won nearly $8,000 out of this, so it was big even back in the ’90s.”
Scott Breding and Mortensen were in Cody this week as two Legends of the Rodeo, another piece of the centennial celebration.
But Cody isn’t just special over Independence Day. The town hosts 90 nights of riding every summer.
“I started coming here in high school to the Nite Rodeo, and it was a great training grounds,” Mortensen remembered.
“I’d make the drive from Big Timber, where I was raised, and I’d drive down here at least twice a week if I could get myself in that many times,” Scott Breding said. “That’s kind of how I honed myself up the ladder.”
“I would come here during the week all summer long when I was just starting riding bulls,” said Parker Breding. “To be able to get on as many as I could and experience the rodeo atmosphere, it was huge for me growing up. I kind of owe a lot of my success nowadays to this place.”
So many do — a reason the Stampede will be inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame next month.
“I was actually surprised that it hadn’t been in the past,” Mortensen said. “It’s rodeos like this that make the PRCA the ultimate association in my opinion.”
Mike Darby is co-president of the Cody Stampede board.
“Being it’s our 100th, that is so special,” said Darby. “It’s better than any icing on any cake there ever was. If you had to write a script and have the best ending it could be, this is it.”
There’s no riding off into the sunset, though. Darby says they’re already planning ways to make the Stampede better for the next 100 years.