In 1937 Everett Colborn came to Texas from Blackfoot, Idaho and purchased controlling interest in a rodeo company — Colonel W.T. Johnson’s World Series Rodeo — headquartered at Spofford, Texas.
After obtaining the rodeo, Colborn’s most immediate need was a ranch large enough to pasture the livestock. Accessibility to the railroad was also essential. Colborn eventually located a ranch 15 miles south of Dublin — the 14,000 acre Lightning C — and along with his wife, Ava, and two young daughters, Rosemary and Carolyn, began his new life in Texas. At that time, the Lightning C was the largest ranch in the world devoted entirely to rodeo stock.
In April of 1940 Dublin citizens witnessed the first performance of Colborn’s “World’s Championship Rodeo” at what is now the Dublin City Park. In September of that same year, 20th Century Fox sent a crew to film the rodeo for the Movie-Tone newsreel. Throughout their two-week stay, the crew filmed numerous scenes of the rodeo crew at work; including the livestock round-up and the subsequent trail drive to the railroad station to catch the “rodeo train.” Dublin area residents still talk about the excitement that surrounded those events. The last scene of the newsreel featured the first New York performance of the rodeo. This short film was aptly titled Rodeo Goes to Town.”
In 1942 Everett Colborn and his partners merged their rodeo with the rodeo of movie star, Gene Autry. During the following years Gene Autry performed with the rodeo in Dublin several times, as did Michael O’Shea, Ray Whitely, the Light Crust Doughboys and Bob Wills.
In 1946 the Dublin Rodeo Enterprises, Inc., with Clarence Leatherwood as president, constructed the Colborn Bowl — the largest rodeo arena in the southwest at that time. The Dublin performance of the rodeo was changed from April to September and became the Pre-Madison Square Garden Rodeo to coincide with the annual trip to New York. As soon as the Dublin performance was finished, the entire rodeo — lock, stock and barrel — headed for the train. On the back of this special 24-car train was a large picture of Everett Colborn in action.
It took the wildest horses, the most vicious bulls, and the most talented cowboys and cowgirls to produce a good rodeo — and Dublin’s own World Championship Rodeo was undeniably the best.
The cowboys and cowgirls were second to none and included Harry Tompkins, Jim Shoulder, Casey Tibbs, Toots Marifield and Tad Lucas. And many movie stars performed for Everett Colborn and his rodeo including Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, the Lone Ranger, Rex Allen and, of course, Gene Autry.
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Formation of Lightning C Ranch
Everett Colborn, Harry Knight, Mark Twain and William (Bill) Clemens purchased the entire string of rodeo stock and equipment from Col. W. T. Johnson and named the new rodeo company the “World’s Championship Rodeo”. Everett Colborn finds pasture land 14 miles southeast of Dublin, Texas for his rodeo stock and calls it the “Lightning C Ranch”.
With 14,000 acres the “Lightning C Ranch” became the largest ranch dedicated entirely to rodeo stock in the world. Everett Colborn moves to Texas with his wife Ava and two daughters, Rosemary and Carolyn from Blackfoot, Idaho and settles on the “Lightning C Ranch”.
The Santa Fe Railroad builds the “Dublin Stock Yard” and Colborn leases a 24-car train to transport his rodeo stock throughout the United States on his yearly rodeo circuit to the Madison Square Garden Rodeo, the Boston Garden Rodeo, Phoenix, Arizona and more.
Start of New Rodeo in Dublin
A group of Dublin’s businessmen headed by Clarence Leatherwood approach Colborn and his partners to stage Dublin’s first rodeo. They call themselves the “Dublin Sportsman Club.”
First World Championship Rodeo
The citizens of Dublin watch the first performance of Colborn’s “World Championship Rodeo” in what is now the Dublin City Park. For the first time Gene Autry attends Dublin’s World’s Championship Rodeo.
Hollywood Comes to Dublin
20th Century Fox Movie Company travels to Dublin, Texas to film Colborn’s “World Championship Rodeo” for a Movie-tone newsreel called “Rodeo Goes to Town”. This newsreel was shown throughout the United States and overseas during World War II.
“Rodeo Goes to Town” features the Lightning C Ranch roundup of the stock and practicing in the Lightning C Ranch arena. The stock is then driven by horseback into Dublin to perform at Dublin’s “World’s Championship Rodeo.” After the last performance, the stock was loaded on the famous “Rodeo Train.” The “Rodeo Goes to Town” newsreel ends at Madison Square Garden, New York’s Grand Entry.
Merger with Gene Autry
Gene Autry’s “Flying A Ranch Stampede” and Everett Colborn’s “World Championship Rodeo” merge into one of the largest and best rodeos with over a thousand head of the best livestock on established ranches. These ranches include the “Lightning C Ranch” at Dublin, Texas, Gene Autry’s “Flying A Ranch Stampede” in Gene Autry, Oklahoma and a ranch in Florence, Arizona.
Gene Autry immediately enlists in the army and Everett Colborn takes active business management of the new “Gene Autry’s World’s Championship Rodeo and Associates.” Everett Colborn is still a partner but his name disappears and Gene Autry gets top billing. Roy Rogers is booked as entertainer for the rodeo while Gene Autry is away in the Army.
Colborn Bowl Built
The Colborn Bowl was built seating 9,000 people becoming the largest outdoor arena in the southwest at that time. Gene Autry performs at the Dublin’s World’s Championship Rodeo that year.
The Dublin Rodeo Association was dissolved and Dublin Rodeo Enterprises, Inc. was formed. The “World Championship Dublin Rodeo” is changed to “Pre-Madison Square Garden’s World’s Championship Rodeo.”
The first “Sanctioned National Cutting Show” was held on Tuesday making it the very first event held in the Colborn Bowl because the Dublin Rodeo didn’t start until Friday.
End of an Era
47,000 people attend the Pre-Madison Square Garden World’s Championship Rodeo in Dublin. Everett Colborn retires and the rodeo stock is moved to another location, ending the rodeo career of a man that was once called “the Father of Rodeo.”
The Dublin Rodeo Heritage Museum opens its doors to the public with a grand opening.