Cowtown Rides Again (for Two More Weeks)

As we pulled onto the dirt path leading to the grass parking lots, the mooing of steers filled the late-summer air. Men and women in cowboy boots and hats strolled through the glow of another setting sun. It’s another warm Saturday night in South Jersey, where the Cowtown Rodeo is an annual tradition.

I ventured to Salem County and the Cowtown Rodeo last weekend with some pessimistic friends. A rodeo in New Jersey? They weren’t quite ready to believe that. But the mooing of those steers and the abundance of those boots drove home the point. When we finally parked and began walking toward the arena, my friend Dave took a lingering look around and said, “Okay. So maybe this is an actual rodeo.”

Founded in 1929 by Howard Harris Sr. and his son, Howard “Stoney” Harris Jr., Cowtown is the longest-running weekly rodeo in the United States, attracting cowboys from as far away as Wyoming and Texas. Every Saturday night, rain or shine, from May 29 through September 25, the lights come up on the 4,000-seat outdoor arena at 7:30, and spectators are treated to nearly three hours of purebred, western rodeo entertainment.

Most evenings feature seven events sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, including bareback bronco riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, bull riding, team roping and girls’ barrel racing. This past weekend we were also treated to a riotous show of monkeys riding on the backs of shepherd dogs (no joke). At Cowtown you never know what surprises await.

Visitors can also check out the Cowtown Flea Market, which is open from 8 am to 4 pm on Tuesdays and Saturdays, offering everything from handbags to freshly butchered meats.

Food and refreshments include warm peanuts, hot dogs, burgers, and soda. It’s a BYO event, which means you can enjoy a few bottles of your favorite brew while watching the festivities.

Adults pay $15 for the show; it’s $10 for children ages 2 through 12; children under 2 are admitted free. The parking also is free. For more information call 856-769-3200 or visit cowtownrodeo.com.

But hurry—you’ve only got two weekends left. No matter where you live it’s worth the drive. Trust me.

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