One noticeable thing about the morning of June 18 was the lack of parking near downtown Hollister. Even if you were from out of town or just passing through, you knew something big was going on. Hundreds of people lined up both sides of San Benito Street, some using the many parklets along as private viewing booths.
Near the end of the parade route, which ran on San Benito Street from Haydon to Fifth streets, the crowd was thinly dispersed as families and friends pulled up lawn chairs to wait for the sound of marching bands and the announcers calling out the names of high schools and groups of equestrians dressed in traditional western and vaquero attire atop magnificent horses.
The largest crowd was in front of the Veterans’ Memorial Building where the announcing grandstand was situated as Frankie Gallagher, from Hazel Hawkins Hospital, called play-by-play and Eddie Kutz provided color commentary.
“We’re extremely excited about coming back after two years because of COVID,” Gallagher told BenitoLink. “We have a great crowd downtown. It’s a well-rounded parade and we’re excited to be back.”
This year the Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo Parade was an extra big deal because it also marks the 150th anniversary of the founding of Hollister.
“There was a lot of work and a lot of dedication to pulling this off,” said Dave Westrick, retired Hollister police chief and a director in the Saddle Horse Association. “This is Americana. This is small-town USA. Coming out of the pandemic, this is us celebrating America and celebrating our heritage in our community.”
The parade is the kick-off to a week of festivities leading up to the Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo, scheduled for June 24-26 at Bolado Park in Tres Pinos. There will be competitions such as Team Roping and the uniquely San Benito Figure 8 Eliminations.
Nearly 1,500 people were involved in making the event happen, according to organizer Ray Pulver, who has been managing it since 2018, as well as the Lights-on Parade every November for the past 10 years. He will also spearhead the 150th celebratory parade. He told BenitoLink there were 50 entries, including 14 equestrian groups made up of over 90 horses, the highest ever, he said.
Watsonville Community Band was the first musical group to pass in review. The San Benito County High School Haybaler band closed out the event. In between were community bands and social groups, the San Benito County Public Library van, kids and parents, an antique sheepherder’s wagon, the laidback Monterey Viejo 1846 E Clampus Vitas that literally laid down for a moment in the street in front of the grandstand, a contingent from The Garden Shoppe, classic cars, a bucking tractor, a two-story combination shopping cart/hot rod from Lucky, and magnificent horses of every stripe, many decked out in silver saddles, with one dating back to the 1940s.
Then there were the cattle that led the entire parade. But not just any cattle. These were the sturdy Texas Longhorns, made famous by countless cattle drives up from Texas to Kansas when Americans first began to have a yearning for beef.
The name Longhorn is well deserved as far as these particular cattle were concerned. A couple had massive, spreading horns that reached out three or more feet on either side of the noble heads. Guided by experienced cowboys and cowgirls, the cattle were well behaved, almost docile. Even so, the crowd was warned to stay on the sidewalks because, after all, they were cows and who knows what a cow might do.
This year’s winners:
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