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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


OPINION: Does Tucson still need rodeo days?

Ericka Rios
A cowboy bows his head during the prayer at the opening of the 2020 Tucson Rodeo.

Feb. 24 and 25 this year will find students across Tucson released from school for rodeo break, a holiday that presumably allows for Tucson citizens to attend the local rodeo. 

Rodeo break always contributed to making February my favorite month of the year, being that it was riddled with holidays and events that made sure there was no full week of school the entire month. Rodeo break, being exclusive to Tucson, also means that suddenly the entire city is taking over nearby destinations like Disneyland and San Diego. 

However, in all my years of going to public school in Tucson, I’ve never heard of any of my classmates attending the Tucson rodeo, called La Fiesta de los Vaqueros. So, why on Earth do we celebrate it? 

The answer is that the rodeo used to be a much bigger deal than it is today. Tucson Citizen reported that the longstanding tradition came about because the entire city used to shut down for the rodeo, and since every child in town was either in the parade or at it, the schools didn’t bother trying to stay open. 

La Fiesta de los Vaqueros’ website attributes the rodeo’s creation back, in the 1920s, to the need for tourists in the midwinter desert season, as well as it being an excuse to celebrate the ranching history of Tucson and the surrounding area. Today, the rodeo is still an impressive event, though not as popular within town as it was back in the day.

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That brings us back to rodeo break at the schools. If the point of the recess was to allow students to attend the rodeo, what’s the point today?

I believe that the holiday is still around to celebrate the history of Tucson and acknowledge its western roots in ranching. Year-round school systems, like the one used in the Vail School District, are tough and draining, and the midwinter season once the holidays have passed are even more so.

I think that the kids deserve a break, and if it makes them think about the rodeo, then great. If it doesn’t, then at least it gives them a second to breathe in the middle of the hardest quarter of the school year. 

Montana State University’s D. Mark Anderson and Georgia State University’s Mary Beth Walker argued for four-day school week, citing research that showed that students who had shorter weeks showed significant increases in performance compared to those on a traditional schedule.

Though rodeo break is only one short break, shortened schedules like these combat the mania to keep kids in school, especially since the pandemic has sent parents into a craze of making their kids catch up to pre-online learning standards.

The holiday may be bizarre, especially for some city schools where the only cowboys are the boys who wear big belt buckles but have never been anywhere near a real cow except for their middle school dairy farm field trip. But, it’s an opportunity for teachers to educate their students about the history of the city they’re growing up in, and it’s an opportunity for students to take that Thursday and Friday off and just camp out on the couch for a while. 

Follow Amanda Betz on Twitter

Mandy (she/her) is a senior studying journalism and public relations. She spends her free time shopping, writing and hanging with friends.”  

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