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Official Review by Richard Smith, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
New Jersey and rodeo don’t seem on the surface to fit together. But the southern part of the “Garden State” is a highly agricultural area that fits perfectly into the rodeo market.
The Cowtown Rodeo is the longest running weekly rodeo in the United States. It was started in 1929 and been in continuous operation since 1955. Every Saturday night at 7:30 from May through September the fans flock here. In 1957 and 1958, Cowtown was syndicated on national television, as it was again later in 1968 and 1969.
In 1967 the family owned rodeo built the present 4000 seat arena. Cowtown is part of the professional First Frontier rodeo series. Winners and qualifiers may qualify for the national rodeo semifinals held in Harrisburg, PA each winter. Winners at that event could qualify for the national finals in Las Vegas.
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The food is reasonably priced at Cowtown. The main concession stand has good food at fair prices. Hot dogs are $2.50, with a fairly loaded hamburger going for $6. The $6 pulled pork sandwich is also quite a good value. There are usually some other food stands, as well as a real good nut vendor.
Near the north seating area is a funnel cake only line that gets extremely popular just as the events start. It is worth standing in line.
Canned beer, in small coolers, can be brought into the arena by patrons. Canned soda can be bought at the arena for $1.50.
The atmosphere at Cowtown is pretty great. The whole night the crowd is a buzz of electricity in anticipation of the upcoming events. Families come to Cowtown together so the kids are often running around not paying attention to the action, but it doesn't negatively affect the overall atmosphere.
The public address announcer keeps one fully informed of the various events of the night. There will be bareback riding, steer wrestling, saddle-bronc riding, calf-roping, bull-riding, team calf-roping and girls' barrel racing. The bulls and the bull-riding are the main event each night.
The arena is made up of basic wooden and metal bleachers that surround ľ of the rodeo grounds. The seats are not made for comfort. Bring padding of your own if this bothers you. It is a rodeo, so it is not made for comfort.
Businesses have reserved skyboxes on the north part of the arena. Each box holds eight people on padded seats.
There is no real neighborhood around Cowtown. The area is mainly agricultural, with the only businesses close by also owned by the family that runs Cowtown. They operate the Cowtown Farmers Market, which is next door, and the Cowtown Cowboy Outfitters down the street. Both are great places to visit before the Saturday night events.
The closest food establishment is Lapp's Dairy, an old style New Jersey dairy bar a couple miles back towards the New Jersey Turnpike.The ice cream is outstanding and the pulled pork cheese fries are simply amazing.
Sometimes the kids are not totally paying attention to the rodeo, but overall the arena and fans stay engaged in the events of the rodeo. It can be loud, but never annoyingly so. Cowtown gets a rabid, fun audience to each of their weekly events. Also expect a great deal of patriotism to be on display.
Cowtown is located right off of Route 40, which is a major route to the southern New Jersey shore. It is located only a few miles east of the Delaware Memorial Bridge and the New Jersey Turnpike. Cowtown should be easy to find. If you have ever driven from the south to Atlantic City, there is a good chance you have already driven by.
The area is only 20 minutes from Wilmington, DE, as well as being less than an hour from the heart of Philadelphia.
The weekly events are not totally cheap, as the $20 adult admission is fairly steep. Children 3 to 12 get in for $10, while infants age 2 and under are FREE and do not require a ticket. A year long season ticket can be bought for $160 per ticket.
The souvenir store is packed with cool hats and rodeo gifts, as well as the ubiquitous t-shirt and sweatshirts.
Look out for various promotional nights, which can save you money, but also can make the event more interesting. Some of these could include Agriculture Appreciation Night, Free Kids Cowboy Hat Night, Military Appreciation Night and Girl Scout Night.
The funnel cake food stand is worth an extra star by itself. Yum!
The Cowtown Farmers Market is worth getting to the area early. They are open all year around, rain or shine, every Tuesday & Saturday 8 am to 4 pm. There are many reasons to stop in, but the Amish meats may trump all others.
Cowtown Rodeo may not be the event that you may expect to find yourself attending while in New Jersey. But if you are around the area on a Summer Saturday night, you may not experience a more enjoyable evening of fun.
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780 Harding Hwy.
Pilesgrove, NJ 08098
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