While the Oakley Rodeo didn’t officially start until the 1930s, Oakley has been throwing a July 4th celebration for over a century.

Coalville Times, June 29th 1900

The Coalville Times of 1908 makes mention of “broncho” riding in Oakley on July 4th.

Coalville Times, July 10th 1908

Alexander Andrew Evans (1885-1952) is probably the “Broncho Buster” mentioned. The “Wilde Boys” are the sons of George William Wilde (1869-1956).

The Wilde Boys

The rodeo proper was begun by Elmo Woolstenhulme, Sam and Lyle Wilde and Paul Hortin.

Elmo Woolstenhulme
Lyle Wilde
Paul Hortin

“The first rodeo was held over in what we call Steven’s Grove, across the road from Steven’s Conservancy Park . They just kind of put a snow fence around and brought the calves and horses out in the field.” – Mayor Wade Woolstenhulme

Kamas Valley History Group interviewed Ken (Elmo Woolstenhulme’s son), who was just too young to remember the first rodeo, but he remembered participating in one a few years later, when he was nine years old.

Ken Woolstenhulme as a boy

Ken: I remember they had three guys that rode saddle broncs. Bobby Gines was one, and Doc Thomas, he lived up South Fork. And there was a guy from out of Tooele. Those three guys would ride three or four horses apiece.

Rob Lee (Bobby) Gines

And then the rest of the rodeo was guys riding steers.

Interviewer: Do you remember who rode the steers? 

Ken: Well, me and Gerald (Young). And Dee Hortin, I don’t remember the rest of them. 

After Elmo became Mayor in 1962 the arena was moved into what used to be the old schoolyard and millpond, with new chutes and bleachers.

Oakley millpond
Old rodeo grounds

The rodeos were produced by Gerald Young, who had transitioned from cowboy to owner of Young and Young Rodeo Company.

In 1983 the rodeo signed with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. In the mid-1990s the town was able to buy a plot of land and in 2005 Oakley held its 75th anniversary rodeo in the new $3m, 6000-seat arena and recreation complex. Today the rodeo is one of the biggest professional rodeos in the country, attracting over 5000 visitors and competitors per day, from all over the world.