History of the Rodeo (Vaqueros)
” COMPETENCIA DE VAQUEROS” OLD SPANISH DAYS FIESTA, STOCK HORSE SHOW & RODEO
The Fiesta Stock Horse Show was once a Saturday afternoon only event dating back to 1924. It was an event at the old Pershing Park arena on Castillo Street, which was also the home for many other horse shows, and events through out the years. The Fiesta Stock Horse Show which involved showing stock horses, some cattle work, and roping was last held at Pershing Park in 1957. After 1957, Pershing Park was renovated towards what you see today (a baseball diamond).
It was Fiesta 1958 when the Fiesta Stock Horse Show was moved to the then new Earl Warren Showgrounds of the 19th District Agricultural Association at Highway 101, and Las Positas Road. After moving to Earl Warren Showgrounds, a five event RCA (Rodeo Cowboy Association) rodeo was integrated into the Fiesta Stock Horse Show including professional steer wrestling, team roping, bareback broncs, saddle broncs, and bull riding. The name of the event was also changed to the Old Spanish Days Fiesta Stock Horse Show & Rodeo. The Rodeo was a 5 performance show for many years, Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings plus Saturday and Sunday afternoons that also included Mutton Bustin’, team penning, and several different stock horse classes.
In 2005, we had our first ever PBR [Professional Bull Riding] event called the Santa Barbara PBR Challengers Series Event. We kicked off 2005 with the PBR Thursday evening and had PRCA performances Friday and Saturday with local finals on Sunday. We have since settled on Thursday evening PBR and PRCA performances Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoon. Thursday, Friday and Saturday days plus Sunday mornings are used for eliminations.
The main endeavor of this portion of the Fiesta celebration is to bring to town for excitement and competition with the cowboys and cowgirls from the many local ranches in the Tri-Counties. You must live within the Tri-Counties (San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara or Ventura) to be eligible to compete. The objective being to get local amateur type horsemen competing among themselves to see who has the best horse, or is the best roper, brander, etc.
Although the paid arena performances might be the most exciting in front of sellout crowds, there are other classes, and competitions going on throughout the day. They include junior (under 18 years of age) roping Friday morning, the Hackamore, Ranch Horse Class, 2 Man Ranch Horse Class and other stock horse class eliminations during the days with the top contestants showing in the paid performances. We also have amateur team roping and steer stopping held Saturday morning. Horse Show classes take place over several days and include events for children through adults including Cowboy Ranch Trail, Cowboy Ranch Riding, Stock Horse Confirmation & ReiningWestern Pleasure. Sunday morning is the team branding event, which includes a junior division and team penning slack.
During each paid performance we have a grand entry where we introduce dignitaries such as the Governor, and our annually chosen Honorary Vaquero. The Honorary Vaquero Program was conceived back in the late 1960’s by MAX R. WATKINS, who at the time, was Chairman of the Fiesta Stock Horse Show & Rodeo. His good intentions were to honor “Old Timers” who so often go through life unrecognized. Each year we try to select a person who has during his or her career contributed to the community and been generous with their time in helping other cattle producers and ranchers with their round-ups and brandings and the cattel industry in general.
Although the Rodeo is a modern aftermath, it does draw, and does round out our Competencia de Vaqueros as it is officially known in the Old Spanish Days Fiesta schedules. The PBR bull riding & PRCA Rodeo events mixed in with the Fiesta Stock Horse Show makes the Competencia de Vaqueros a very popular event and one event that tickets are sought out after and hard to come by for the evening performances.
Some past chairmen of this event include Jimmy Freeman, Ed Van Cleve, Dick May, Max Watkins, Harlan Brown, Bob Herdman, Paul Righetti, Jim Pollard, Jerry Williams, Don Barnes, Steve Bollinger, Josiah F. Jenkins, Mitch Williams, Dr. Chris Pankau, Greg Simon and Dave Jamieson.It should be noted that committeemen donate their time, and materials. It is time consuming and costly to drive to meetings, and many days are spent in preparation for this annual event. We have a great committee this year with members from Santa Barbara, the Santa Ynez Valley, Lompoc, Santa Maria Valley and Los Alamos. There are more than 100 ranchers, businessmen, cowboys, and would-be cowboys who all pitch in to donate their time and equipment. It takes a big, organized effort to coordinate this event, as there are many facets to it.
With our successes in past years, we have been able to make donations to the following groups:
- The Santa Ynez Valley Equestrian Association
- The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. Mounted Unit
- The Boy Scouts of America
- High School Rodeo
- Santa Ynez Valley Pony Club
- The Santa Barbara West Side Boys & Girls Club
- The San Marcos High School Cheer Leading Squad
- The Santa Barbara Optimist Club
- 4-H Club of Lompoc
- Lucky Clover 4-H of Los Olivos
- Santa Ynez Valley Historical Society
- American Indian Health & Services
- Carriage Museum of Santa Barbara
- FOR – Friends of Rodeo
- HEARTS Adaptive Riding
- 532 Training Squadron “Maintainers” @ Vandenberg AFB
- Santa Ynez Valley Historical Society & Carriage Museum