There’s a saying that goes, “If you eat, you’re involved in agriculture.” It’s a reminder that even though the vast majority of Americans are now living in urban areas, our nation’s farmers and ranchers — just 2 percent of U.S. families — provide the food and fiber we all need to live and prosper.

Rodeos and livestock shows are signature events in areas of the country where agriculture is a significant contributor to the economy. Even city-dwellers are drawn to these events to watch not only the rodeo competition or livestock judging, but also to enjoy the pageantry, entertainment, and activities that are always planned around them. Their attendance may be the primary way urban consumers’ understanding and appreciation for agriculture are shaped.

Rodeos are held throughout the country, but in our hometown, it’s the 55th annual Brown County Rodeo that merits attention this week.

Events opened Thursday night at the Earl Q. Wilson Arena on the Brady Highway in Brownwood, and competition continues tonight and Saturday. This rodeo is one way the sponsoring Brown County Fair Association — thanks to its dedicated members and volunteers — helps keep western traditions alive.

As is the case with most competitive sports, I believe people who aren’t directly involved in rodeo can’t fully comprehend what it’s all about. However, if you can’t participate, being a spectator is the best way to understand.

Whether you’re a spectator or a participant, this week’s Brown County Rodeo is the place to be.

There’s another saying that goes, “There’s something for everyone,” and the Fair Association has worked hard to ensure that statement rings true at the rodeo this year. Check out the Bulletin’s coverage or the association’s website, where all of the events scheduled this weekend are listed. Foremost among them are the Brown County Rodeo Market and Trade Days this afternoon and Saturday at the Home Economics Building. A dance featuring the Kevin Seale Band is planned Saturday night, and plenty of entertainment and activities for all ages will unfold.

Competitive events in modern rodeos grew out of the cattle industry in the American Old West. As ranching expanded after the Civil War, cowboys perfected the unique skills needed to work on ranches, and those skills formed the basis for contests that eventually became recognized rodeo events.

Sources trace the first rodeo back to Pecos, Texas, in 1883, and after a few decades, larger exhibitions opened in metropolitan areas like Fort Worth, Boston, and New York. By the middle of the 20th century, rodeos were popular not only among young people competing small town arenas, but also for fans of professional riders and ropers at fashionable venues in places like Las Vegas.

In Texas, rodeo remains a long-standing tradition. As interest has grown, so too has its impact on the state’s economy.

In Brown County, many of us hear about the local Fair Association maybe twice a year when the main events it sponsors are held — in June around rodeo time, and in January during the Youth Fair. But its volunteers are working around the clock to plan these events and maintain the multi-use complex that serves our community in many other ways.

Rodeos and livestock shows teach our youth important life skills, generate money for college educations, and promote a lifelong love of agriculture. If supporting our community and our traditions isn’t part of the code of the West, I don’t know what is.

Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at