The legend of the Manawa Rodeo

It all began 64 years ago, when local businessman Carl Dretzke was traveling in the western part of Wisconsin and saw a sign advertising a Bob Barnes Rodeo. Carl thought it might be a good fundraiser for the community, and brought the idea to the Manawa Lions Club. The Lions Club formed a rodeo committee and contacted Bob Barnes, a rodeo stock contractor, who in turn invited them to his ranch in Iowa to watch a rodeo. Casey Klemm, the local barber, and Carl made the trip to Iowa representing the Manawa Lions. They liked what they saw, and agreed that Manawa should host a Championship Rodeo.

The town of Manawa was known as Rodeo City

Six weeks prior to the event, Lions Club members were required to wear western hats, and faced a fine of 50 cents and endured the ridicule of their fellow Lions if they broke the rule. Local business people got into the act by dressing with a western flair and running rodeo specials along with ticket giveaways at their establishments. The little cowpokes looked forward to seeing horses in the parade and maybe a chance at some free candy. Every child in the rodeo audience dreamed that this might be the year they’d win the free pony given away at each performance.

Let Numbers Tell the Truth

Over the past 65 years the Mid- Western Rodeo has meant over 1.5 million dollars in revenue to local businesses in Manawa. The Manawa Lions have donated over $800,000 to schools, the rescue squad, parks, high school scholarship fund, and other civic organizations. 15,000 people attend the rodeo each year to watch not 27 but the 350 entrants competing for not $2,000 but a $36,000 purse plus entry fees.

Award-Winning Rodeo

The Mid-Western Rodeo was selected the Great Lakes Circuit Medium Rodeo of the year in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017 , 2019, 2021 and 2022. Considered the largest category, the medium rodeo includes twenty one rodeos in nine states (Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, Iowa, Kentucky, and Missouri). This award is given to show the contestants’ appreciation for the efforts of the people or organizations that put forth the extra effort to improve their sport, promote growth, increase their fan base, and keep the rodeo growing as a sport.

65 Year Anniversary in 2023

“Awards given at year end are kind of a big deal to us, because the contestants are the ones doing the voting, and if they like it we must be doing something right,” stated Peter Ziebell Mid-Western Rodeo Chairman. 2023 marks the 65th year that Rodeo City will proudly pull together over the 4th of July weekend, as in the past, to bring Rodeo fans from all over the U.S. a family show that they won’t forget. And that is truly what legends are made of.