A good old-fashion rodeo is as much a part of Arizona summer as scorching heat and monsoon rains. Cowboys and cowgirls saddle up every year in the beautiful highlands of southeastern Arizona to compete in the Sonoita Labor Day Rodeo.
Sonoita, along with Elgin and Patagonia are three small towns that make up a hidden paradise in “the Mountain Empire.” The unique landscape of rolling hills and seemingly endless grasslands lie just 40 miles beyond Tucson at an elevation of 5,000 feet.
The area has a rich history of ranching, mining and railroading, and is home to many ghost towns such as Harshaw, Mowry and Washington Camp. Today, it’s a utopia for bird watchers and has recently become a major player in the Arizona wine-making industry.
Hollywood discovered this beautiful land more than half a century ago with location shoots for movies like “Oklahoma,” “Tin Cup” and “McLintock.” Fans of the television show “Little House on the Prairie” may recognize the majestic rolling grasslands, as well.
Father Eusebio Francisco Kino mapped and designated Sonoita as one of his visitas (an overnight place of rest and worship) in 1701. This land still is real cowboy country.
And those cowboys and cowgirls of today invite all of Arizona to join them in the way cowboys have always celebrated—with a real rodeo at the Santa Cruz Fairgrounds. On the weekend of Sept. 3, 4 and 5, the three days of riddin’, ropin’ and rowdiness will include wild horse racing, ladies barrel racing, kids’ rodeo, tie-down roping, ladies breakaway roping, bull riding, steer wrestling and so much more. Buckles will be awarded to all event champions as well as the All-Around Rodeo Champion.