"A third of all cowboys were black," says Nickolas Ridley, curator for the Black American West Museum in Denver. "And a black cowboy, Bill Pickett, actually taught Roy Rogers how to do rope work."
But at the 2012 Martin Luther King Jr. African American Heritage Rodeo of Champions, taking place tonight at the National Western Stock Show, all of the cowboys will be black -- with the athletes competing in a variety of contests, including a Pony Express relay and ladies' steer undecorating, the all-female event akin to steer wrestling. Each cowgirl will get the chance to chase down a running steer while on horseback, then yank off a ribbon adorning the animal and raise it high above her own head for the win. The rodeo aims to show how black cowgirls and cowboys impacted the West throughout history, and also to honor Dr. King's legacy.
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The rodeo starts at 6 p.m. in the Coliseum; tickets range from $13 to $35. For more information, go to www.nationalwestern.com.
Mon., Jan. 16, 6 p.m., 2012