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Barrel racing, 2000
Barrel racing, 2000. Photo: Sarah Hoskins

Palestine Rodeo (PRC)

Hailed as the "Best Small Town Rodeo in America" by competing cowboys, the Palestine rodeo is the town's Labor Day Festival's main event, attracting 20,000 people each year.

The festival's two-hour parade, Saturday morning chuck wagon breakfast, Saturday flea market, and the free entertainment on the bandstand all complement rodeo activities. The rodeo show has four performances, and attracts cowboys from across the country.

The festival evolved from a fundraiser for a local youth center in 1950, when a group of Palestine citizens revived a railroaders' Old Timers Picnic as a Labor Day celebration. The festival had a parade, a youth king and queen contest, a baseball tournament, and other competitive games. In 1954, management of the successful event was turned over to the chamber of commerce. The Labor Day festival was chosen as the event to also celebrate Palestine's Sesquicentennial in 1961 when a horse show was added to the festivities. In 1967, the horse show was replaced with a professional rodeo, held in a makeshift arena in a baseball field.

Over the course of several years, volunteers built an arena for the rodeo. Its facade was designed to appear as Fort LaMotte, in homage to the town's roots and French explorer John LaMotte. The town's name, Palestine, derives from remarks made by LaMotte, who explored the area as part of the 1678 LaSalle expedition. Upon seeing the area, he exclaimed it looked like "the land of milk and honey." The area was first settled in 1812 around Fort LaMotte. Later Fort Foot was built to accommodate the growing number of settlers.

Documentation includes a text report, 20 slides, a video, photos and newspaper clippings.

Originally submitted by: David D. Phelps, Representative (19th District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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