When you think of New Jersey, the first thing that comes to mind is probably far from big skies, open ranges, and round-ups. In the most densely populated state, you wouldn’t think of finding anything of this nature.
Story and photography by Jesse Michalski
A taste of the west is hard to find when you’re nestled between the shadows of the New York and Philadelphia skylines. However, there was a time where New Jersey was undeniably a Garden State and with this came cowboys, crops, and cowherds. Nestled in southern New Jersey, only 30 miles away from the City of Brotherly Love, much of this western lifestyle still remains. Through miles of seemingly endless crops and where only silos surpass the horizon, cowboys and cowgirls can find their authentic taste of the west at The Cowtown Rodeo.
Bronc Rider: Will Stites
Bull Rider: Juan Picon Jr.
What started as an attraction at the Salem County Fair in 1929, Cowtown Rodeo in Woodstown, NJ has been keeping the western tradition with events like tie-down roping, bull and bareback riding, steer wrestling, and barrel racing for generations.
Family owned and operated, Cowtowns’ held rodeos at the county fair until 1937. Soon after, the Country’s demands during the Second World War put the rodeo on hold till 1955.
It was in the late 1950s that the rodeo gained national televised attention and had to be moved to a larger arena in 1967, where it is currently held today.
The rodeo brings in spectators and participants from across the nation. Stands quickly become packed with onlookers of all ages. Some have been attending the rodeo since they were a child and are passing the experience onto their young ones. Even for the riders at Cowtown, there’s something special about Saturday nights in Woodstown.
“Cowtowns’ kinda like family now… you’re there for 18 to 19 weeks in a row with the same guys. When I miss a week, it’s like something is missing” -Will Stites
Running annually every Saturday night from May 25th to September 28th, this year marks the 65th consecutive season of professional rodeo on the First Frontier Circuit.