Located just one hour southwest of Fort Worth, Stephenville is probably most well known for being home to Tarleton State University, State Champion High School Football Teams, Hard Eight BBQ… and a lot of cowboys!
Tarleton State University, a part of the Texas A&M University System, is known far and wide for creating a culture of excellence in both academic and athletic programs. Thousands of visitors descend on the campus throughout the year for sporting events, music performances, educational conferences, and alumni events. Each October, the Tarleton community celebrates a full week of Homecoming festivities as alumni, friends and family gather to enjoy Tarleton traditions such as the bonfire, parade, class reunions, and of course – tailgating before the football game.
Just where did the ‘Cowboy Capital of the World’ recognition come from? Their statistics show that more professional cowboys and cowgirls live within a 30 mile radius of Stephenville than anywhere else in the world. Many of these cowboys and cowgirls were born and raised in the Stephenville area. Others got there as fast as they could to enjoy the plethora of events, practice opportunities, and exceptional quality of life the area has to offer.
Tarleton State University has the largest collegiate rodeo program in the nation with over 100 students coming from all over the country to Stephenville where they can train with the best of the best. Upon college graduation, many of these rodeo athletes decide to make the Cowboy Capital their permanent home.
Competitors from all over the world come to Lone Star Arena, an equine event facility just outside the Stephenville city limits, for a host of local, regional and national events including barrel races, calf ropings, team ropings, bull ridings, reinings, cuttings, horse shows, mounted shooting competitions and more!
Each year, the last full week in September leading up to the Cowboy Capital of the World PRCA Rodeo is proclaimed ‘Rodeo Heritage Week’ to recognize and celebrate the many outstanding cowboys and cowgirls that have brought world-wide acclaim to the Stephenville area. The Rodeo Heritage Kickoff Celebration includes a 5K run, downtown parade, mutton bustin’ competition, dummy roping contest, pony rides, carriage rides, western vendor booths, food, and music. Other Rodeo Heritage Week festivities include a western art exhibit at the airport, rodeo queen contest, concert in the park, golf tournament, celebrity fashion show and more. For the third consecutive year, the Cowboy Capital PRCA Rodeo has been voted one of the Top 5 mid-sized rodeos in the nation! Each year, the committee strives to produce the best rodeo possible for the fans, contestants and sponsors. Nearly 600 professional rodeo athletes journey to the Cowboy Capital every year to compete for over $100,000 in cash, buckles, spurs and trophy rifles. Even though Rodeo Heritage Week only lasts 7 days, rodeo is celebrated 365 days a year in the Cowboy Capital!
Stephenville is a special place that reflects pride in the community’s rich heritage and commitment to the future. Whether you are just visiting for a few days or planning to plant your feet there for a lifetime, we feel confident you will soon see why Stephenville has been listed as one of ‘The 100 Best Small Towns in America!’
Clyde H. Wells Fine Arts Center: Located in the center of the beautiful campus of Tarleton State University is a state-of-the art facility featuring an auditorium, theater, workshop theater, and art gallery. Visitors can enjoy a variety of art exhibits, theater performances, dance recitals, music concerts, speaker symposiums, and more throughout the year.
Cross Timbers Fine Arts Council (CTFAC): A non-profit fine arts presenter organization, the goal of CTFAC to enrich and enhance the artistic environment of the Cross Timbers Area and make cultural activities accessible to all citizens. Each year CTFAC sponsors or co-sponsors a variety of events that include music, theater, dance and art exhibits. CTFAC also sponsors children’s. theater, youth concerts, art camps and public-school Art-in-Education programs. CTFAC partners with the City of Stephenville and Texstar Ford to host a Summer Nights Concert Series at the Birdsong Amphitheater at the Stephenville City Park. Music lovers can also enjoy an evening under the stars featuring the western music and poetry by Don Edwards during Rodeo Heritage Week.
Great American Entertainment Company: Providing the highest quality educational animal attractions for state and county fairs, rodeos, and private events since 1983, the Great American Entertainment Company now has a permanent home just outside of Stephenville on Highway 281. Visitors can enjoy a ranch adventure featuring a petting zoo, pony rides, vintage gift shop, and fresh baked pies. Keeping agriculture alive through real-life experiences, this family operation provides a very different kind of petting zoo. There are absolutely no barriers once inside the enclosure. All of the animals run freely with the public, and the public loves it! Each and every one of their friendly animals is hand-raised at their farms in Oregon and Texas. The zoo contains a wide variety of animals including llamas, Fallow Deer, Bennett Wallabies, African Pygmy Goats, assorted exotic and domestic goats and sheep, Vietnamese Potbellied Pigs, Bantam Chickens, miniature Sicilian Donkeys, miniature Call Ducks, and baby animals born all year long.
Historic Downtown Square: With numerous historic structures, including several listed as Texas Historical Landmarks, Stephenville’s downtown has been nominated to be listed on the National Register of Historical Places. Though rich in history with many buildings having been standing for over 100 years, recent downtown revitalization efforts have led to facade improvements and new unique shops and eateries filling previously vacant buildings. The vibrant downtown square hosts numerous family-fun events throughout the year including Cars and Coffee the first Saturday of every month, a farmers market March through November, Discover Downtown shopping and dining nights, the annual Sundown on the Square fundraiser benefiting the Stephenville Historical Museum, and the Stephenville Chamber’s Holly Jolly Christmas Festival.
Lone Star Family Farm: Open seasonally from September through November, visitors can enjoy hayrides, a giant and mini corn maze, haybale pyramid, corn and sand pit, giant slides, pumpkin patch, roping dummies, stick horses, farm animals, and decorative fall themed backdrops for family and group photos. Bring your group at night and enjoy your own private campfire. Group reservations are available for pre-scheduled groups of 25 or more during regular hours. Bring your scouting troop, school class, or youth group. The mazes and additional attractions make great group outings. Members interact, make group decisions, succeed and fail together as they progress through the pathways. Your adventure can be a competition or collaborative effort, but it will always be exciting! Lone Star Family Farm & Corn Maze focuses on education through entertainment. Inside the mazes, groups are involved in three major types of learning experiences: Teamwork, Navigation, and Agriculture. The results and methods of solving the maze make lively debate topics, discussions, and applications to everyday life.
Splashville Water Park: Offering fun for children of all ages, Splashville is a fun summer retreat. The park features a splash and zero entry area that has fun water features like waterbugs, water cannons, tipping buckets, mushroom waterfalls and a three foot slide. The larger four foot deep pool features a 16 foot slide, an 8 foot slide and a lily pad walk way. If you’re looking to kick back and relax, a trip down the lazy river will do the trick! Float down our 275 foot lazy river while taking in the splash-action around you or working on your tan. Fun in the sun and splashing in the ‘Ville can work up quite an appetite. Don’t worry! Splashville features a concession stand offering a variety of treats.
Southwest Regional Dairy Center: A partnership between Tarleton State University and a local dairy producer, the center’s mission is to provide enabling infrastructure support for teaching, research, and service/outreach programs to meet the need of higher education, the dairy industry and society in Texas and the southwest. Cows at the Southwest Regional Dairy Center are milked 3 times daily on a 24-cow rotary milking parlor. Each milking session lasts for approximately 9 minutes while the cow makes one full rotation on the parlor. This type of parlor can help improve efficiency by keeping workers on a timed pace as well as provide a stress-free environment for cows. Visitors to the dairy are able to observe the milking process and learn about all the production aspects and new technology being implemented on a modern dairy. Tours are available by appointment.
Stephenville Historical Museum: Nestled on 3 acres adjacent to the Bosque River, the Stephenville Historical House Museum consists of 12 nineteenth century structures furnished with period furniture and artifacts. Buildings include several log cabins, a ranch house owned by John Tarleton (founder of Tarleton State University), a rock cottage, a two-story Victorian house, a chapel, and a school house. There’s even a two-hole outhouse! The museum grounds are open to the public all day, every day for self-guided tours. Guided tours are also available, with reservations suggested for large groups and classes. The museum hosts several annual events including By Gone Days on the Bosque, Spirits of Erath Cemetery Walk, Native & Heirloom Plant Fair, and the Museum Motorcycle Fun Run. The chapel, schoolhouse meeting room, and beautifully landscaped grounds are available for weddings and other events.
Tarleton Planetarium: Located under the iconic copper dome, in the south-east corner of Tarleton’s Lamar Johanson Science Building, the 40’ planetarium has been recently remodeled and provides a spectacular, immersive experience. Featuring a new Digistar 5 projection system and 86 reclined seats, programs combine HD full-dome video, 5.1 surround sound, and accurate astronomical images to bring the wonders of space to visitors.
Veldhuizen Family Farm: Off the beaten path between Stephenville and Dublin you will find a Texas Real Milk Farmstead producing artisan cheese and dairy products. Being a farmstead operation means plenty of work to do every day. A typical morning on the Veldhuizen Family Farm begins around 5:30am with milking. Much of the day is then spent hand-crafting cheese in the cheese room, and in “The Cave” where cheese is aged for up to 3 years. The cheese is turned, coated, and washed throughout the aging process to bring out the complexity of flavors. The fields and cows require daily attention, fresh eggs need to be collected, and there’s often equipment to repair. Finally, there’s the evening milking before the day is through. The Veldhuizen Family takes times to show visitors the artisan cheese making process and shares their passion for raising healthy cows and producing delicious raw milk cheeses. They have a colorful herd of milk cows, predominately Jerseys, a breed known for their rich and creamy milk.
281 Speedway: 2017 marked the 20th season for IMCA racing at 281 Speedway, a quarter-mile, semi-banked, clay oval raceway track features IMCA Modifieds, Sports Mods, Stock Cars, Hobby Stocks, Compacts and Street Stocks. 281 was the first track to run the Southern Sport Mods, starting in 2004, and added the Sport Compacts in 2011. Families can enjoy dirt track racing every Saturday night from March through September. Every race night has a different theme with special events and giveaways for the fans.
For more details on these attractions and unique places to eat, play and stay in Stephenville, visit www.stephenvilletexas.org.
Story information provided by Stephenville Chamber of Commerce
Photography by Flight reach & Dudley barker