Nielsen competing on her horse, Polly, at the Spurr Ranch barrel race in Shandon. Photo courtesy Brittany Nielsen's Facebook page.

KSBW 8 News Anchor Brittany Nielsen is set to preside over the San Benito County Saddle Horse Show Downtown Parade on Saturday June 16. Eddie Kutz, Hollister native and 22-year veteran of calling Professional Rodeo Cowboys’ Association Rodeo action, will be her co-host.

The parade kicks off the 85th anniversary of the San Benito County Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo.

Nielsen, an 11-year veteran of KSBW Action News 8, grew up in Watsonville and always aspired to be part of the rodeo community. She has been riding horses her entire life, but didn’t start roping until age 13. On weekends, you can find her at jackpot team ropings, riding horses on the beach, or spending time with family.

“Horses, dogs, and news are my entire life,” Nielsen said.

Nielsen said her interest in broadcasting was in part due to learning about Jennifer Smith’s career, wife of PRCA athlete Stran Smith. Smith, a former Miss Rodeo America, was hired by ESPN and sent to college for broadcasting and journalism. Her job with ESPN was to interview professional rodeo athletes.

“She had the most perfect job ever getting to interview professional rodeo athletes,” Nielsen said, who met Jennifer Smith at California Rodeo Salinas a few years ago.

The 2018 Saddle Horse Show Downtown Parade will be Nielsen’s first parade announcer gig. She’s excited to be part of the western way of life, she said.

The western lifestyle is something we all can still enjoy in San Benito County explained Rebecca Wolf, Saddle Horse Association Director. “Its about the quality of life in SBC and that ‘western’ is a description of a slower paced lifestyle and time spent outdoors with livestock. It can include gardening, hiking and overall enjoyment of the open countryside we have been able to maintain through ranching,” she said.

“I love San Benito County,” Nielsen said. “Local hometown rodeos don’t exist much and it’s a blast to see everyone compete that you know. The Saddle Horse Show Downtown Parade is local tradition and a neat way to kick off rodeo week.”

Eddie Kutz’s family has been in Hollister for three generations, though he now resides in Arroyo Grande in San Luis Obispo County. Kutz is known for his broadcasting career, and spends a couple months on the road every year announcing rodeos.

Kutz graduated from Palma High School and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo before going to the Pro Rodeo Tour Cowboys Association, where he competed in bull riding and saddle bronc riding. He said he got started with announcing on a whim.

At the 1981 Santa Barbara Fiesta, Kutz tried out his best imitation of Bob Tallman, who is regarded as the best announcer in rodeo history. Shortly afterwards, Kutz started doing color analyst callings.

Kutz said he hasn’t had a chance to see the Saddle Horse Show Downtown Parade for 50 years.

“I’m really excited to be back at the parade,” Kutz said. “It will be neat to see the main drag of downtown display the western traditions of the saddle horse show.”

“We talk about the tradition and the history but it is also important to think about the benefits of ranching to the community itself. When we look around us and see all these beautiful hills and open space, it is still there because ranching has remained viable. We hope that through the parade and horse show and rodeo, people will learn more about it and understand what it gives to the whole community,” Wolf said.

The San Benito County Horse Show and Rodeo is unique, honoring the early vaquero and ranching traditions and values. The event has been an early summer treat since the 1920s, Kutz said.

To learn more about the Saddle Horse Show Downtown Parade or to get involved, visit Parade entries are available online.