New York Times: One of the Oldest Rodeos in America Is in New Jersey

The country’s longest-running weekly rodeo can be found in the Garden State. That’s not as strange as it sounds.

PILESGROVE, N.J. — The low-lying clouds framing the horizon at sunset were beginning to tinge a cotton-candy pink when the rodeo announcer, Ty Miller, instructed all men to “remove cover.”

He had just finished reciting a prayer. The national anthem — “the most beautiful song ever written,” he said — was next.

“My goodness,” John McKenney, 52, said to friends squeezed thigh to thigh on Cowtown Rodeo’s wooden, no-frills stands. “I don’t think we’re in New Jersey anymore.”

Tucked along the rural western flank of a state better known for suburban sprawl, mobster lore and its tangle of highways, Cowtown has held rodeo competitions in Salem County, N.J., nearly every week since 1955, rain or shine. The only exceptions were six Saturdays at the start of the pandemic.

No other rodeo in the United States has operated a weekly show for longer, according to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

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Published August 16, 2022, New York Times
By Tracey Tully, Photographs by Gabby Jones