Visitors to the Shawnee area during early July might be mystified to see signs for businesses everywhere proudly displaying the message “Welcome IFYR” on their signs and marquees. What’s the IFYR, you might ask? Why, it’s only the biggest annual event that our city has the pleasure of hosting! The International Finals Youth Rodeo brings in some of the world’s best young rodeo talent, coming from as far away as Australia. With the Heart of Oklahoma Expo Center as their battlegrounds, the event runs for over a week as young riders and ropers compete for the best times and achievements!
As an event sanctioned by the International Professional Rodeo Association, many of the greatest names in the rodeo world have had their roots in the IFYR, having made their pilgrimage to the Redbud City of Oklahoma. Including these buckaroos, their families and rodeo enthusiasts from all over, the event brings in thousands of visitors annually! With such a great pedigree, it’s no surprise that the rodeo has grown to such a size. In fact, the rodeo has touched the lives of approximately 1.5 million people, from competitors and their families to spectators and volunteers.
Established in 1993 with 309 contestants from 13 states, the IFYR has grown to average over a thousand contestants annually from all around the world. The event has come to be known as “the world’s richest youth rodeo,” as contestants compete for more than $250,000 in prize money, plus scholarships, nightly jackpots and championship saddles and buckles. Additionally, competitors who earn either the All-Around Cowboy or Cowgirl titles gain the use of special championship trailers!
So what kind of competition can visitors expect? Events for the youth rodeo contestants include barrel racing, pole bending, breakaway roping, goat tying, team roping, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, bull riding, saddle bronc riding and bareback riding. City slickers might not recognize or fully understand all these terms, but rodeo enthusiasts know exactly what we’re talking about. All these events take a great deal of athleticism, tenacity, and skill; if you want to learn more, attending the IFYR would be the perfect opportunity to brush up on your rodeo lingo!
The action at the IFYR is non-stop, with events held in three arenas running simultaneously, providing an abundance of thrill for competitors and those excitedly cheering from the grandstand. Rodeo check-in begins July 6 at 8 a.m. and the 2018 IFYR opening performance will commence Sunday, July 8 at 8 p.m. Fans can enjoy daily performances July 9-13 at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Not only can visitors to the IFYR expect to see some high-stakes action in the arena, but they can also visit the Tin Star Market to do some shopping! In fact, admission and parking are absolutely free. But what is the Tin Star Market? Imagine a thoughtfully curated flea market with a distinctly Western flair. Visitors can shop for the coolest duds and unique jewelry, high-end Western apparel, artwork and handmade items, home décor and plenty else. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., the trade show is fully air-conditioned, making it a great way to get out of the heat!
Whether you’re from out of town or a Shawnee resident, a die-hard cowboy or simply curious, there’s bound to be something at the IFYR to entertain hearts and souls from all over! For more information, you can head on over to the rodeo’s website at www.ifyr.com