First-time contestants and fans alike are always surprised to see two dozen or so trees planted in a circular shape inside the St. Paul Rodeo arena. At one time, the trees served to outline the arena’s racetrack, used for all types of cowgirl, pony-express, chariot and pony races that most often involved local contestants.

Today, the arborvitae trees remain, brought in fresh each year from St. Paul’s Ernst Nursery. At one time, the St. Paul committee used Christmas trees in the arena. But they became exceedingly difficult to come by around July 4th – the rodeo’s traditional date.

“The team ropers have had their share of run-ins with the trees,” said St. Paul Rodeo President Bill Smith. “But now they just claim that if you don’t have the steer caught before the trees, you’re too long anyway, and you might as well just go home.”

Through the years a number of contestants have mentioned the possibility of removing the approximately four-foot trees. But these days, the trees are as much a part of the St. Paul Rodeo as the cowboys, livestock and 10,000-plus fans who flock to each performance.

“Cotton Rosser, the California stock contractor, said he still has a picture of himself riding a bucking horse here, and that bronc is clearing one of those trees as Cotton spurs him across the arena,” Smith said. “After all these years, my guess is the contestants are just used to them by now.”

The 2006 St. Paul Rodeo is scheduled to run June 29 through July 4. For more information, visit

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