This article was written by BenitoLink intern Marisa Sachau
The annual Saddle Horse Show Parade, which happens on June 18, is a beloved San Benito County tradition. The first one happened in 1934.
Rebecca Wolf, a Hollister native, became the main force behind the show in 2017.
She first got involved by working in the Saddle Horse Show Museum in 1991. She then worked with the parade after joining the 25-member Saddle Horse Show Board in 2010.
“I became involved with the horse show cause I grew up going to Bolado Park and my dad, Bill Medeiros, was a director for 46 years,” said Wolf.
Wolf, who now chairs the Saddle Horse Show Board, said this is the first year the Hollister Downtown Association is helping with the parade. She said it was appropriate that they be involved because 2022 marks Hollister’s 150th anniversary.
Planning of the volunteer-based Saddle Horse Show Parade is a year-long process, though the bulk of planning starts in December and January.
Ray Pulver is in charge of organizing and producing the parade. He was brought in to lead the effort in 2018, when responsibility for it returned to the Saddle Horse Show Committee. This is not Pulver’s first rodeo; he’s been organizing and producing parades for 30 years.
And neither is this the only parade that Pulver organizes in Hollister. He’s also been in charge of the Lights-On Parade every November for the last 10 years.
In addition, Pulver coordinates parades up and down the state. The majority of his clients are in the Bay Area, but he also helps with parades in Palm Springs and West Hollywood, as well as in Las Vegas and Pittsfield, Massachusetts, his home state.
Pulver’s love for parades was a childhood passion that grew into his career.
“I enjoyed marching in them when I was in Cub Scouts,” he said. He volunteered for roughly 17 years for his hometown’s 4th of July parade and came to understand what it took to run a successful parade.
After that, Pulver came out to California where he worked for six years with the city of San Jose producing their holiday parade. In 2000 he founded Upbeat Parade Productions.
Networking with local and state downtown associations and festival groups is what initially brought Pulver to Hollister. He will also be in charge of Hollister’s 150th anniversary parade on Aug. 6.
Of course, Pulver does not do this work alone. He has a team of 20 to help him out. Pulver’s assistants are paid and work with the volunteer groups that are usually involved with parades.
“I’m bringing in six people from my team to help oversee the coordination of the parade,” said Pulver. “Then we rely on volunteers from the cities that we work with to help with barricades and parade flow.”
In the post-lockdown era, turnout for parades has grown significantly. Pulver said he did not have parade work for 18 months. Although the crowd turnout has been high, participation in the parades has been low.
“In the fall and holiday season, some cities said they had record crowds,” he said. “The majority of my parades had fewer entries because a lot of the nonprofit groups, especially the dance teams or the marching bands at that point had not been together or had not rehearsed enough.”
Even in summer, participation in the parades has been down. Pulver said this is because a lot of groups have not fully recouped from the pandemic.
There are 50 entries for the Saddle Horse Show Parade, with 14 of them equestrians. Pulver said this year there will be about 90 horses in the parade, the highest number since he started working with the Saddle Horse Show.
There are roughly 1,500 people involved in the parade, he said. “We have three marching bands in the parade this year, and we have a variety of groups participating.”
The parade begins at 11 a.m. with the starting line at the corner of Haydon and San Benito streets. The route proceeds north on San Benito Street to Fifth Street in downtown Hollister.
It is part of the Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo scheduled for June 24-26 at Bolado Park in Tres Pinos. There are competitions such as Team Roping and Figure 8 Eliminations from June 18-19. For the complete schedule click here.
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