Published May 22, 2014
By Devin Corbitt, News Editor
Rodeo is not dead in Belton, Texas. Although the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame left its home in Belton in 2010, the rodeo spirit still pervades the community and the county.
Every year, thousands of people from across the globe travel to Fort Worth, Texas, to visit the Hall of Fame, which now resides within the Historic Fort Worth Stockyards at Cowtown Coliseum. It seems as though it has always been there, nestled among the Western wear stores and saloons. But many Belton residents know better.
A mere four years ago, the Hall of Fame was flourishing right here in Belton. However, this success is what led to the organization’s need to look for alternative locations.
“They needed more space,” Beltonian Dee Sheets, cousin of Hall of Fame founder and Beltonian Johnny Boren, said. “They had outgrown the space they had here, and it just wasn’t going to happen here, so after looking around and trying to find someplace, Fort Worth made an offer that they just couldn’t refuse. They actually came down and looked at what we had here. The Board worried about how it was going to affect everybody, but they said, ‘We can’t grow if we can’t find a place where we can induct more people because we don’t have room for any more.’ And it’s turned out to be a great thing.”
Since then, the Hall has been able to continue adding inductees every year, including Sheets in 2014.
“I’m sad it left Belton, but I think that, in the end, it’s turned out to be a great thing,” Sheets said. “There’s a place to display more and more plaques every year. There’s still room for it to grow.”
Because of the recent upsurge in rodeo’s popularity, the Hall of Fame has attracted more and more people. Monthly, it sees more than 31,000 visitors hailing from across the country and around the globe. Last year, visitors came from every state in the United States as well as seeing approximately 15,000 from 19 countries, including Canada, Scotland, Japan and Argentina.
“The traffic up there is phenomenal because everyone who comes into the Stockyards sees this big sign, and they start walking down,” Sheets said. “It’s people from all over the world; it’s not just local people. I noticed people from Slovakia and England, and they just loved it.”
Many Belton businesses also still support the Rodeo Hall of Fame, including Mitchell Equipment, who donated the money to buy Sheets’ belt buckle upon her induction earlier this year. Among them stand dozens of individuals committed to growing and maintaining Texas rodeo.