Pawnee bill rodeo 2020

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Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Fest

Home |   Museums and Sites |   Historic Homes |   Pawnee Bill Ranch and Museum |  Wild West Fest

Thank you to everyone who turned out to make the 2021 Wild West Fest on September 18, 2021. We look forward to next year’s activities!

The Pawnee Bill Ranch and Museum celebrates the lives of Major Gordon W. “Pawnee Bill” Lillie and his wife May Lillie and their famous Wild West Shows with a one-day festival in September. Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Fest is held at the historic original ranch site. Stagecoaches roll amid thundering horse hooves while the lightning of gunfire explodes around Pawnee Bill, May, and their cohorts as the talented performers thrill and amaze audiences. The festival features exhibitions of acts from the original Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Shows.

The museum is open to the public during the festival, and food from local food trucks is available. The events include historically accurate entertainment such as blacksmithing, gunfighters and sharpshooters, a medicine man show, and musicians, held continuously on the ranch grounds from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Windy Ratchford Lattin

Dancing Eagles


Come Join The Fun at The Pawnee Bill Memorial Rodeo (Facebook), celebrated since 1985, in August at 7:30 nightly at The Pawnee Lakeside Arena, which is located 2 miles north of Pawnee on Highway 18.  (Reference the Events Calendar for specific times of activities.) 

There is a Western Heritage Week, a Draft Horse and Mule Sale, an "Old Time Saturday Night" Car-Cruze-In - in downtown Pawnee, the nightly Pawnee Bill Memorial Rodeo and Dance, a youth rodeo, and a Ranch Rodeo.  Don’t miss the Fun…Join the community as they relive "the cowboy way of life".   Miss Rodeo U.S.A. will be appearing each night of the memorial rodeo.

Direct any questions to Pawnee Lakeside Foundation, (405) 880-7218 or call the Pawnee Chamber of Commerce @ (918) 762-2108.


Old Time Saturday Night Cruze-In is the Kick-Off for the Rodeo Week. The rodeo events start on the following Wednesday.  (See the Events Calendar for times.)

Pawnee Bill Rodeo

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Pawnee Bill

Gordon William Lillie (February 14, 1860 – February 3, 1942), known professionally as Pawnee Bill, was an American showman and performer who specialized in Wild West shows and was known for his short partnership with William "Buffalo" Bill Cody. In 2010, he was inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.[1]

Early life and family[edit]

Pawnee Bill was born on February 14, 1860, in Bloomington, Illinois. His father Newton operated a flour mill in Bloomington; the mill burned to the ground in 1876.[2] The family then moved to Wellington, Kansas, where Gordon developed a love for the West. By the age of 19, he was working on the Pawnee Indian agency in Indian Territory. In 1883, he was given the chance to work as the Pawnee interpreter with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. His work with the show was the origin of his nickname as "Pawnee Bill."[3]

Wild West show[edit]

Poster for Pawnee Bill's Historic Wild West.

After courting for two years, Lillie married May Manning in 1886, a petite Quaker from Pennsylvania. She was younger than he, a graduate of Smith College, and the daughter of a wealthy Philadelphia physician. Her parents objected at first to their refined young daughter marrying a cowboy, but eventually they agreed to the union.[4]

In 1888, the Lillies launched their own Wild West show, which they called "Pawnee Bill’s Historic Wild West". May starred in the show as the "Champion Girl Horseback Shot of the West." Their first season was a financial disaster. They re-organized as a smaller operation called "Pawnee Bill’s Historical Wild West Indian Museum and Encampment Show." That show was popular and financially successful. Lillie added Jose Barrera to the cast; he was widely popular performing as "Mexican Joe". In 1907, Lillie hired performers from a variety of backgrounds. The show included Mexican cowboys, Pawnee, Japanese performers, and Arab jugglers. The ensemble debuted as "Pawnee Bill’s Great Far East Show."[5]

In 1908, Pawnee Bill and Buffalo Bill joined forces and created the "Two Bills' show. That show was foreclosed on when it was playing in Denver, Colorado.[6]

While Gordon Lillie had been on tour, May supervised their buffalo ranch, now known as Pawnee Bill Ranch. The Lillies completed work on their Arts-and-Crafts style home on Blue Hawk Peak in 1910.[7]

Later life[edit]

Pawnee Bill invested in banking, real estate, and oil. He operated various business interests and dabbled in film making at his ranch. In 1930, May and Pawnee Bill opened Pawnee Bill’s Old Town near the ranch. They sold Indian and Mexican crafts, and featured annual rodeos. That enterprise burned to the ground in the 1940s and was never rebuilt.

In 1936, the couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in Taos, New Mexico. In September of that year they attended a local celebration in Tulsa, Oklahoma. While driving back to their ranch that night, Pawnee Bill lost control of their vehicle. May died as a result of her injuries, and Pawnee Bill never fully recovered. He died in his sleep on February 3, 1942, at the age of 81 in his home outside of Pawnee, Oklahoma.[8]


The Pawnee Bill Ranch continues to exist, including a museum.[9] The Pawnee Bill Memorial Rodeo is held annually,[10] as is a version of Pawnee Bill’s Original Wild West Show.[11]


  1. ^"Hall of Great Westerners". National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Retrieved November 22, 2019.
  2. ^Willey, Eric. "One of Our Own: Pawnee Bill's Life as Viewed by Bloomington Residents." Bandwagon, 60, no. 4 (2016): 72-90.
  3. ^Shirley (2017).
  4. ^Enss, Chris. "Wild Woman Wednesday: May Manning Lillie". Cowgirl Magazine. Retrieved 5 February 2018.
  5. ^Farnum; Bock (1992).
  6. ^Wheeler (2006).
  7. ^Kemp, Bill. "PFOP: Wild West legend Pawnee Bill got start in Bloomington". The Pantagraph. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  8. ^"Famous 'Pawnee Blll' Dies on His Ranch in Oklahoma". Santa Ana Register. UPI. February 4, 1942 – via access
  9. ^"Pawnee Bill Ranch Historic Site & Museum". Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  10. ^"Pawnee Bill Memorial Rodeo". City of Pawnee. Retrieved March 23, 2020.
  11. ^"Pawnee Bill's Original Wild West Show". Oklahoma Historical Society. Retrieved March 23, 2020.


  • Farnum, Allen Lester; Bock, Harry V. (1992). Pawnee Bill's Historic Wild West: A Photo Documentary of the 1900-1905 Show Tours. Schiffer. ISBN .
  • Hyde, G. Hyde and Savoie Lottinville. The Pawnee Indians: Civilization of the American Indian Series, (2007).
  • Moses, L.G. Wild West Shows and the Images of American Indians, 1883-1933. University of New Mexico Press, (1999).
  • Shirley, Glenn (2017). Pawnee Bill: A Biography of Major Gordon W. Lillie. Pickle Partners Publishing. ISBN .
  • Wallis, Michael. The Real Wild West, The 101 Ranch and the Creation of the American West. St. Martin's Press, New York. (1999).
  • Wheeler, Richard S. (2006). The Honorable Cody. Sunstone Press. ISBN .
  • Weltfish, G. The Lost Universe: Pawnee Life and Culture (1990).

External links[edit]

Category:Rodeo personnel


Pawnee Bill Memorial Rodeo

The Pawnee Bill Memorial Rodeo is IPRA sanctioned with seven standard events including bareback bronc riding, bull riding, saddle bronc riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, cowgirl barrel racing and team roping. Come for a weekend of family entertainment and exciting rodeo action with performances held nightly. Crowd favorites at this annual event include a wild horse race, wild cow milking, wild sheep riding and bull poker. A rodeo queen will be crowned and dances will be held each night after the main event.

Visitors to the Pawnee Bill Memorial Rodeo will also enjoy wagon trails, trail riding and more. Browse through vendor booths filled with cowboy crafts, enjoy Western games and stick around for a children's rodeo. Rodeo clowns will be on-hand to entertain the crowds during the event and a parade will be held downtown on Saturday.



Adults: $10
Kids: $5

While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the pricing listed above, prices are subject to change without notice.


Group Amenities

  • Bus/Motorcoach Parking
  • Group Rates Available
  • Tour Group Welcome Reception

Projected Attendance

  • Number of attendees: 2,000

2020 pawnee bill rodeo

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2013 Pawnee, OK Rodeo

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