Pack your bags road trippers, XIT Rodeo & Reunion, home of the world’s largest free BBQ, is celebrating its 80th year on August 4th-6th. The reunion came to existence in 1936 when former cowboys and their families came together to reminisce on their days at the XIT ranch, after it was used to pay for the Texas Capitol building and then divided up and sold as smaller ranches. The reunion has been held in Dalhart since 1937 and has grown with the addition of rodeos, pork chop and watermelon feeds, dances, the XIT Melodrama at La Rita Theater, and the world’s largest free BBQ.
The rodeo & reunion is no longer a small gathering of cowboys. Over the years, country music stars like Reba McEntire, Conway Twitty, and Waylon Jennings have performed at the nightly dances. While it is unknown how many people travel to Dalhart for the yearly festivities, the XIT Board of Directors prepares for 20,000 people to attend. At a population of 8,326, the rodeo and reunion causes the small town to almost triple in size.
While attendance is expected to grow for the 80th celebration, preparing, cooking, and serving the world’s largest free BBQ will be no small ordeal. But, the XIT Board of Directors has perfected its hosting duties. Each year preparation begins on Thursday, two days before serving begins, with wood stacking at the large meat pits. Friday, before the meat has been wrapped in burlap bags, loaded into the pit, and covered with tin sheets, hundreds gather for the fire lighting in the early morning hours. Finally, after 25 hours of cooking, 10,000 pounds of meat is unloaded and served on Saturday by 250 or more volunteers, where thousands wait in lines up to a quarter mile long for plates loaded with slow-cooked, pit BBQ.
The BBQ and PRCA rodeo seems like just a small treat when the packed schedule is considered. The full weekend of events features the XIT Museum Open House, wild cow milking contests, dances with live entertainment, one mile and 5K runs, an antique tractor show and pull, arts and craft show, street parade, fiddlers contest, the 17th annual Mud Bogs, and more. Make sure to check out the XIT Melodrama: Dogsbreath Devereaux…The Dastardly Doctor! at La Rita Theater. This year, XIT Rodeo & Reunion is the perfect can’t miss weekend event to top off the summer.
–By Kristen Schniederjan