The Rodeo began in the depths of the Great Depression, promoted by three dirt farmers and a school teacher, its roots extending back to a Thanksgiving Day get-together for a bunch of good ol’ boys in a pasture. As youngsters, Harry Graber and his buddies Merle “Smick” Graber and Harry Kautzer spiced their farm lives by wrapping a rope around a steer in the corral and hopping on his back. If steers weren’t available, cows would do. Horses, too. By the early 1930’s they were competing in small rodeos in the area and bringing home their share of prize money.
In 1935, Pretty Prairie spectators at a football game at Pratt we so impressed with the lighted field that they got together and decided to go ahead and get some for Pretty Prairie and in 1936, the three Grabers and Harry Kautzer sponsored the first PRETTY PRAIRIE NIGHT RODEO.
It was intended to be a community gathering, a two-day frolic. But those were not frolicsome times. Dust storms regularly blew hopes away. Jobs were few. Money was tight. The good intentions of the sponsors aside, families couldn’t be expected to come to the football field and fill the stands both nights. But they did.
And they’ve been filling the stands of the Pretty Prairie Rodeo ever since. For more than half a century the lights have come on, shining like a pearl on the Kansas prairie.