“Let’s Go! Let’s Show! Let’s Rodeo!” Those are proverbial words that kick off Fort Worth Country Day’s Kindergarten Rodeo!
Now in its 48th year, the K-Rodeo, as it’s affectionately known, allows FWCD’s youngest students to dress up as cowboys and cowgirls and reenact the Fort Worth Rodeo. Riding stick horses; dressing up as colorful rodeo clowns; and cavorting as cows, calves and steers, the kindergarteners take over the Annie Richardson Bass Lower School Atrium for one of the School’s most beloved traditions.
Four kindergarten classes entertained family members, FWCD seniors and fourth-graders, as well as their classmates with rousing performances on Thursday, January 27, and Friday, January 28. This annual event always coincides with the students’ studies on the Lone Star State and the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo to truly bring Old West studies to life.
“While learning about Texas history, our students are exposed to and encouraged to think about life as a cowboy/girl,” said Caroline Corpening Lamsens ’99, and Perry Nancy Lee Bass Endlowned Chair in Lower School and Kindergarten Teacher. “Through rich literature, video clips and real-life cowboys visiting our school, the students gain a unique understanding and have an appreciation for what it takes to be a cowboy.”
Over the years, the K-Rodeo has evolved to be more and more authentic. It is not only a time-honored tradition for the students, but also for the kindergarten teachers, students of all ages and alumni. The classes of 2017 and 2025 (fourth-graders) were treated to a special showing on January 26. The School’s oldest students really enjoy it, and many "Originals" reminisce about their own roles in their K-Rodeo performance so many years ago. Of the 101-member senior class, 52 students are “Originals” whoperformed in this very rodeo nearly 13 years ago.
Sharing this performance with these age groups completes their circle of life at Fort Worth Country Day. For fourth-graders, the viewing symbolizes their growth as they ready themselves to graduate from the Lower School and move on to the Mason Middle School. For the seniors, it is a sweet remembrance as they begin to look ahead to life outside the gates of FWCD.
“Sharing the rodeo with our senior class is a relatively new tradition,” said Christine Derber, Thomas M. Ryan Distinguished Teaching Chair in Lower School and rodeo pianist for the past 27 years. “Many of the seniors performed this same rodeo as kindergarteners. They tell me they can even remember the same motions to the songs I taught them.”
The event is elaborate, beginning with a Grand Entry performance and the “Star-Spangled Banner.” There are four announcers per event: two students from each class who open the procession, and then the kindergarteners are off—and running! During the nearly 40-minute production, students show their skills in traditional rodeo events, such as bareback bronc riding, the calf scramble, trick roping, bull riding, steer wrestling, barrel racing and more. About halfway through the event, there’s a musical intermission, where the children pay homage to the great state of Texas through such patriotic songs as “Deep in the Heart of Texas” and “I’m a Texas Star.”
Dan Bloch H’06, Middle School Science Teacher, plays the banjo—a role he embraced at the very first Kindergarten Rodeo in 1969 when he began as an FWCD teacher. “It was the banjo that got me involved with the Kindergarten Rodeo all those years ago,” Bloch said. “Melinda Miller [former FWCD teacher] saw me playing for my class one day, and asked if I would accompany the kindergarten for ‘Deep in the Heart of Texas’ for that first rodeo.
“Who knew in 1969 that the students would be performing in the Kindergarten Rodeo 48 years later?” he continued. “Mrs. Miller’s idea has become a unique and treasured part of Country Day life.” On its 45th anniversary, the Kindergarten Rodeo was recognized for its ingenuity and longevity by the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show.
For all students, the roles played in the rodeo have great meaning. In some cases, the roles are a family legacy, as many FWCD parents who are alumni have kindergarteners who perform the very same role that their parents did all those years ago. For new families, K-Rodeo is the just start of their memorable School journey. Together, all the students discover that in Kindergarten Rodeo, they become part of an unforgettable tradition that is uniquely Fort Worth Country Day.