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POSTCARDS FROM FLORIDA

A bargain to see bucking broncs at Silver Spurs Rodeo

Jim Abbott on Florida Travel

Postcards from Florida

January 10, 2010

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Here in Postcards land, we're big on nostalgia, so turn off the iPod and think back to the vintage days of Florida.

There were roadside diners, kitschy attractions such as the Old West fun of Six Gun Territory. There were cattle drives — real ones, not imagined.

The spirit of the latter is still alive and well in Kissimmee, where next month's Silver Spurs Rodeo continues a tradition that stretches back more than 50 years. How big a deal is it?

"Rodeo Day" is a holiday for students and teachers in Osceola County public schools on Feb. 19, the opening day of this year's event. Think of it as a snow day with a serving of regional history.

Even if rodeo events are governed by strict competition guidelines established by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the event itself has evolved some in creature comforts since its debut in 1944. The most fan-friendly improvement is the move in recent years into the new Silver Spurs Arena, with protection from the elements and more comfortable seats (relatively speaking).

Wear cowboy boots, if you have them, and know something about the events. There's helpful information about this last part at silverspursrodeo.com, where you can find out the difference between team roping and tie-down roping, learn the intricacies of bull riding, the role of the pick-up men or contemplate whether mutton bustin' (in which kids ride sheep) qualifies as an alternative to youth sports.

Even if you don't know all the rules, the action in the dirt is a fast-moving combination of guts and glory, like a monster truck show with livestock. It's also a bargain, with its $15 general admission tickets and free admission for children age 10 and under with paid adult.

Kids can show a report card with at least two "A"s to receive a complimentary popcorn and small soda. Rodeo visitors also can make the most of the day by heading across Osceola Heritage Park (home of the Silver Spurs Arena) for the attractions of the Osceola County Fair. There's plenty of rides and guilty-pleasure fair food, with free admission for those with rodeo tickets.