Cattle drive and ranch rodeo honors pioneers

GLADES COUNTY — The sixth annual Smith Family Cattle Drive and Ranch Rodeo is scheduled take place at Fred Smith Arena at Brighton Seminole Reservation on Jan. 27-28.

The cattle drive will begin on Saturday, Jan. 27, at 8 a.m. Lunch will be provided at noon for cattle drive participants.

The first round of the ranch rodeo begins at 5 p.m.

Around $6,000 in prize money is scheduled to be awarded during the ranch rodeo.

In this photo taken at the 2015 event, the annual Smith Family Cattle Drive and Ranch Rodeo starts with a cattle drive from the Brighton marsh pens to the Fred Smith Rodeo Arena. Photo courtesy Beverly Bidney/Seminole Tribune.

A ranch rodeo differs from the more widespread “professional rodeo” style in a few ways, the most obvious being that the competitors are not professional rodeo cowboys; instead they are full-time ranch hands and workers. Instead of competing as individuals, the competitors in ranch rodeos compete as a team representing the ranch they work for.

The cattle drive began in 2013 as a way to pay tribute to the accomplished Seminole cattleman Roger Smith, who passed away in 2012 after a long and successful career that saw him win Cattleman Of The Year three times. He served as a Brighton Board and Council representative, as well as being one of the first Native Americans to ring the opening bell on Wall Street.

Mr. Roger’s horse, Goldie, led the first cattle drive while riderless in 2013, with Mr. Roger’s boots sitting backwards in the stirrup.

Although the Smith Family Cattle Drive and Ranch rodeo got its start after Roger Smith passed away, it has evolved to also honor and pay tribute to four other exceptional Seminole cattlemen: Jack Smith Sr., Fred Smith, Richard Smith and Jack Smith Jr. All five men were cattle owners and involved in the cattle industry in some aspect.

Roger Smith’s widow, Diane Smith, had the idea of honoring Roger’s brothers and father with the annual event.

“On the second year, we added the ranch rodeo to the cattle drive,” said Mrs. Smith. “But in the third year, I felt like although myself and my kids loved Roger and wanted to keep honoring him, I wanted to also honor his brothers and dad who all owned cattle and played a huge role in shaping both the Seminole tribe itself and the cattle industry.”

Fred Smith, the namesake of the rodeo arena in Brighton, was crucial in diversifying Seminole gaming revenue into citrus, cattle and other business pursuits. Fred Smith also played a major role in helping the Seminole Tribe of Florida become the third largest calf producer in the United States.

“It should be a fun and exciting day of watching the cowboys,” said Mrs. Smith. “It’s not your typical rodeo. These are ranch workers, and this is what they do every day. It can get a little wild and crazy.”

Dogs assist those herding the cattle to the rodeo arena for a ranch rodeo. Photo courtesy Beverly Bidney/Seminole Tribune.

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