San Benito County Rodeo Traditions Ride On

Celebrating its 85th year, the San Benito County Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo returned to Bolado Park June 22-24.

The second to last weekend of June was filled with the dusty air and roaring hoofbeats that rodeo fans have come to expect as tradition since 1929 at Bolado Park. Clouds of dirt kicked up by powerful horses and experienced riders could only mean one thing: the time had come for the 85th annual San Benito County Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo.

The annual rodeo is a family affair, as parents and kids compete in the arena or watch from the grandstands. Waiting fans who had never seen a horse or cowpuncher merged as rodeo announcers Eddie Kutz and Ted Dwyer called out names of bronc riders, roping teams, and horsemen and women. This year had almost 400 entrants, which organizers considered to be about the same as last year.

The San Benito County Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo began back in 1929 as a weekend of challenging fun for hard-working cowboys and ranch hands. Organized by a group of local businessmen, community leaders and prominent ranchers, the rodeo has operated every year since, except for four years during World War II. The show started with 25 original directors, and today that same number still oversee the yearly event and day-to-day operations of the rodeo association.

“Few events go back 85 years and the Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo is great way to showcase the vaquero heritage of San Benito County,” said Rebecca Wolf, board director.

The rodeo featured both track and arena events at the same time. Will Centoni won the Senior All Around Arena award, while Lacy Bourdet was the Senior All Around Track Award winner. Centoni just returned from the 2018 College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, WY where he topped the nation in both Bull Riding and the Men’s All-Around.  

Among the youth competitors, Emery Pura won the Junior All Around Track award, while Hailee Westrick took home the Junior All Around Arena award. This year’s 2018 Miss San Benito Rodeo was Kelsee French.

On Friday night, Saddle Horse Show Board Director Josh Mendonsa was injured during the bull riding competition when his horse collided with a bull. He was taken by helicopter to a nearby trauma center. His injuries included broken ribs and some damage to his liver and kidney. No one else was reported injured during the incident.

Melissa Fancher Mendonsa, Josh’s wife, posted an update on Facebook.

“I am very grateful for all the love, prayers and help we have received over the weekend,” she said. “We are so blessed with family, friends and a wonderful community. Josh will have a long road to recovery but he is healthy and strong and will get through this.”

The Figure-8 Roping, unique to San Benito County, was a feature in the event lineup. In Figure-8 Roping, riders rope the steer’s horns with the first loop and at the same time catch the animal’s two front feet with another loop. The winner of the Figure-8 Roping was Scott Spencer, compiling 38 points over three days.

More information about event winners can be found at:




Blaire Strohn is a graduate student at Oklahoma State University focusing on International Agriculture. Blaire also graduated from California State University, Fresno with a Bachelors Degree in Agriculture Communications. Born and raised on a cow/calf operation ranch in Paicines, she is passionate about the agriculture community and western way of life.