The 82nd annual Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo rides into town Friday through Sunday, in celebration of the heritage and traditions of San Benito County.
Rebecca Wolf, a member of the board of directors for the show, said this year is once again chock full of events for kids to proudly show off their skills.
Youth events over the three-day celebration include the keyhole race, barrel racing, ribbon racing, junior Western horsemanship, best working outfits (horse and rider), mixed ribbon roping, junior cow horse, junior reined stock horse, junior single steer stopping and—for the youngest contestants beginning at 4 years old—mutton busting.
Festivities kick off at 6:15 p.m. Thursday with the downtown rodeo parade in Hollister, sponsored by the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce. Along with the rodeo events, the parade is a long-standing tradition for some area families.
Jamie Fowles, a third-generation resident of Hollister, said her family’s participation in the show includes her grandfather, her mother, her siblings, herself and her 7-year-old daughter, Kodi Ann.
“I’ve been participating in (the show) since I was little and its something that I look forward to every year,” Fowles said. “I was as young as I could be to be able to ride. It’s just like my daughter now. She was 4 or 5 when she started in the parade.”
Fowles said her daughter is just learning how to lope and will participate in the outfit class this weekend. Though not ready to join in the events just yet, Fowles said her 2-year-old daughter will no doubt be a part of the tradition in a couple of years too.
“She loves going fast,” she said. “She rides with me and she clucks and wants to go faster. She just loves it.”
Kids events are broken up into different age groups, and Fowles said the absolute key for children participating is that they are able to manage the horse.
“The main thing is making sure their legs are long enough,” she said. “When they’re little, they can hold on with their hands, but they have to grip with their legs too.”
The Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo is an annual event that showcases history and brings out pride in the community, according to Fowles, who is also in charge of the rodeo queen contest.
“It’s a tradition that goes all the way back to the vaqueros,” she said. “They were roping and riding and basically the reason they started doing rodeos is because they’re out working so hard all the time, they started having competitions with each other just to have some fun. And back then, when you were working on ranches and you didn’t have cars and all that, it was a way for everyone to get together.”
As a third-generation resident of San Benito County—her children are the fourth—Fowles said she grew up around horses and she remembers always wanting to be a part of the Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo. She reflects proudly on being a child involved in such a community-focused celebration.
“Of course I loved all the classes but one of my fondest memories was of the parade,” she said. “The parade is something the whole family is involved in.”
Though her rodeo practices began as a youth participating in various events, her love of the rodeo continues as an adult and she will participate in ribbon roping, ladies Western horsemanship and dry work stock horse class. She attributes her appreciation of a variety of events to her childhood experiences.
“When I was a kid, my parents couldn’t just go out and buy me horses,” Fowles said. “So we had whatever horses were given to us and we did whatever that horse was good at. It was nice for me because I got experience on different horses.”
The 82nd annual San Benito County Saddle Horse and Rodeo starts at 7 p.m. Friday and 1:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Bolado Park Fairgrounds. For more information or for a complete schedule of events, call (831) 628-3545 or visit sanbenitocountyrodeo.com.
“It’s an amazing tradition and we enjoy it so much,” Fowles said. “There are a lot of rodeos out there, but this one they’ve actually kept local and it just makes it really special. I’m so grateful we have something like this in our community.”