The Interstate Rodeo Association or IRA was born in 1957 by two rodeo promoters and it started as a rodeo management organization and a sanctioning body. By the end of 1957, the IRA named their first world champion. During this same year, the Cowtown, New Jersey event became the first nationally televised rodeo. In 1964, the IRA changed its name to the International Rodeo Association, additionally, establishing their headquarters in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma. Although this is no longer the headquarters of the organization, it remained as such until 1993. Currently, the International Professional Rodeo Association is headquartered in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In 1983, there was yet another name change. This time, the word “Professional” was added to ensure that the next generation of members would be seen on the outside as professional cowboys and cowgirls.
The Rise of Rodeo
The International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA) has been providing rodeo excitement for more than 50 years. From big cities to small towns, from major league stadiums to portable arenas, the IPRA is the sport’s second largest professional rodeo association sanctioning nearly 300 rodeos.
It is safe to say that the International Professional Rodeo Association has revolutionized the sport of rodeo, time and time again. For example, it created a Board of Governors in 1964 that was made up of performers, producers, fans, contestants, and contractors. By including a large variety of people, it was easy for the organization to make decisions that benefited everybody.
In 1961, the International Professional Rodeo Association made it clear that women would have a big part in the organization. During this time, they were the first to recognize cowgirl barrel racing as a championship event. Over the years, many women have served on the board. Along with this, the Miss Rodeo USA pageant was created in 1965.
By 1968, the association began to plan its first post-season event. It became known as the International Finals Rodeo. In 1971, this event finally took place for the first time at the Tulsa Assembly Center with a total payout of $47,000. This venue remained home to the finals until 1973 when it moved to the Tingley Coliseum in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In 1975, the event returned to Tulsa until 1990.
In today’s day and age, the International Professional Rodeo Association is bigger than ever before. Every year, a three-day rodeo takes place to name the world champions. Along with the four performance rodeo, a western trade show turns the venue into a shopper’s dream. Along with this, there are meetings, seminars, clinics, and of course, the Miss Rodeo USA contest.
The International Professional Rodeo Association is also in charge of the International Finals Youth Rodeo, known as the “world’s richest high school rodeo in the world.” This event is held every summer at the Oklahoma Expo Center in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Every year, more than 1,000 cowboys and cowgirls across the country come to compete in this event.
The leaders of the International Professional Rodeo Association (IPRA) have their eyes on the future, as they hope to grow and expand in the years to come. In addition to expanding into new markets, the organization hopes to increase revenue through sponsorship. If you are interested in learning more about the International Professional Rodeo Association, take in a local event or call the main office at 405-235-6540. There is nothing like seeing a live rodeo!
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