Rooted in Tradition
Determination and innovation—that is the foundation of the Great Southland Stampede Rodeo. The year was 1970 and the University of Georgia livestock judging team needed funds to travel the country to compete in various livestock judging competitions. With the idea of putting on a rodeo as a fundraiser, each team member signed a note, put their trucks and washing machines up for collateral and went to work on what would one day become a UGA tradition. Needless to say, they didn’t lose their trucks or washing machines.
In 1974, the rodeo was held under the arched ceiling of UGA’s Stegeman Coliseum and became sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA). Each April for 29 years, the basketball courts were removed for one week and replaced with 10 inches of dirt. That weekend, Stegeman Coliseum, filled to capacity, played host to a different kind of sport: a rodeo that was once deemed the “Largest Rodeo East of the Mississippi.”
In 2004, GSSR moved from the Coliseum to Heritage Park in Oconee County. The passionate students of the UGA Block and Bridle Club continued the tradition of the rodeo but fought endlessly to bring the rodeo back to its proper place, the University of Georgia campus. Since 2008, the rodeo has been held at the Livestock Instructional Arena on South Milledge Avenue and has continued its success. Over the course of the three-day event, crowds have reached over 5,000.
From 2014 to 2017, GSSR was recognized as one of the Top 5 Indoor Rodeos of the Year, being voted #1 by IPRA cardholders in 2015 and 2016. In 2018, GSSR once again changed sanctions to the National Cowboy Pro Rodeo Association (NCPRA).
GSSR is still one of the largest rodeos in Georgia and it is still run solely by students, just as it was started. This year-long experience provides skills and experiences in a unique opportunity that enhances the education that GSSR committee members receive during their time at the university, as well as a volunteer opportunity when nearly 1,000 local elementary students are invited to the Special Events Rodeo as an educational experience to learn about America’s western heritage and the origination of rodeo events. The GSSR committee could not reach this kind of success without the endless support and guidance of its stock contractor (Bar W Rodeo Company), clown (Jake Willcox), Roger and Ashley Mooney and countless other friends and supporters. With their help, our committed students produce a yearly rodeo that they pride themselves on and set the path for future students to do the same.
As we look toward another great year, we invite you to throw on your boots and come be a part of our exciting tradition-- the Great Southland Stampede Rodeo!