Freeman credited with making SA Stock Show & Rodeo cowboy extravaganza

By Ursula Pari - Anchor, David Ibanez - Web - Managing Editor

SAN ANTONIO - While most of us enjoy going to the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, many people probably don't know much about how the cowboy extravaganza started.

When the San Antonio Rodeo was just an idea, it was up to one man to make it happen -- Joe Freeman.  

His rallying cry got Bexar County to build Freeman Coliseum, and when it opened its doors in 1950, everything changed for the rodeo.

"People sometimes get this wrong, but the rodeo started so that we would have a revenue source to put on the livestock show and the horse for the young people," said San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo CEO Keith Martin.

Martin, who has been with the rodeo for 50 years, has seen tremendous growth from those early years.

He said rodeo officials figured out that there was so much money coming in that it was time to help children with scholarships, which were first awarded in 1984. So far, more than $186 million in scholarships have been awarded.

"It was huge. It affected more than any of us ever felt because it gave our volunteers a huge purpose," he said.

The volunteer ranks grew as well, from 300 volunteers in the early days to more than 6,000 today. 

Martin is also proud of the many awards the rodeo has received. 

"(It's the) largest rodeo in the professional ranks, largest livestock show in the junior ranks. It's been fun to be a part of it, I got to tell you," he said.

The 2018 San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, which kicks off Thursday, is expected to attract 2 million people.

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