History of the Bonifay Rodeo
Bonifay Kiwanis Secretary/Treasurer Paul Bowyer suggested the club try putting on a rodeo as a fundraising activity. He pointed out there were plenty of livestock and cowboys in the area. On December 6-8, 1946, the Bonifay Kiwanis Club hosted the first rodeo. Onlookers stood behind the pasture-type fence that surrounded the field or sat on bales of hay as they watched the rodeo. Kiwanians and their wives operated the concession stands and ticket booths. The club agreed to hold the rodeo annually on the first weekend in October because it was said that it virtually never rained on that weekend.
As the rodeo continued to grow, the club realized the need for professional assistance. King Kong Smith of Wauchula, Florida was the first paid stock contractor. Later the club joined the Rodeo Cowboy’s Association, now the Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association (PRCA). By doing so, cowboys from all over the United States wanted to participate in the Northwest Florida Championship Rodeo to earn local prize money and points toward the national championship. Through the years Bonifay has seen many national champions compete at Memorial Field.
In the early 1950s, a Rodeo Parade was organized with Harvey Etheridge as the first parade grand marshal to coincide with the Northwest Florida Championship Rodeo. The parade assembled at the north end of Bonifay and proceeded down Waukesha Street to Memorial Field on Friday and Saturday afternoons. Local schools were closed so that students could enjoy watching the parade filled with political dignitaries, high school bands, floats, beauty queens, and hundreds of horses that brought up the rear.
The legacy of the Northwest Florida Championship Rodeo and Parades continues today…