Sydney Fischer competes in the junior barrel racing during the 83rd Annual San Benito County Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo. Photo by Sean Roney.

The final weekend of June was filled with the dusty air permeated by metal creaks and thunderous hoofbeats that fans have come to expect as a tradition since 1929 at Bolado Park. Raging clouds of dirt with powerful horses and experienced riders at the tip of those storms could only mean one thing: The time had come for the 83rd Annual San Benito County Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo.

The rodeo featured both track and arena events at the same time. Cash Robinson was the winner of the Senior All Around Arena Award, while Brandon Clark was the Senior All Around Track Award winner. Among the youth competitors, Sydney Fischer won the Junior All Around Arena Award, while Hailee Westrick took home the Junior All Around Track Award. This year’s 2016 Miss San Benito Rodeo was Audrey Liddle.

“It is such a tradition in SBC that alone is very important,” said Director Rebecca Wolf. She went on to describe the connections between past and present: “The history of our early cattle ranching going back to the land grants and the vaquero Cowboys. The youth that are involved learn about the land, ranching, care for their horses as well as raising livestock. They are learning about competition and the history of one of the oldest art forms.”

The rodeo had a community feel, keeping in tradition with a local event run by locals. Local sponsors were featured throughout the event, while outside the arena, one was more likely to run into a neighbor or old acquaintance than a giant corporate ad.

“Our show has always been about community and family coming together for a weekend of catching up and enjoying the rodeo,” said Wolf. “Years ago, ranchers used to ride miles to attend and compete in the rodeo staying at Bolado or with friends that lived close.”

The local spirit continued into the events, where figure 8 roping was featured on the lineup. The winner of the figure 8 roping was Elliot French.

“We started the figure 8 as a exhibition in the 70s and then as a competition,” said Wolf. “It is what the vaquero’s used to enable an animal on the ranch if they were alone and needed to doctor an animal.”

This year had almost 400 entrants, which organizers considered about the same as last year. However, audience attendance was down almost 10 percent. Regarding the drop, Wolf said, “I think the heat and there was a high school rodeo a lot of our participants went to. We always compete with other activities. Our community is changing as well.”

The history of the rodeo extends back to 1929, when ranchers asked Julia Bolado to use her property for a rodeo. The overlap with other events happened even back then, as the first San Benito County Rodeo, held on Sept. 28 and 29, coincided with the last two days of the fair.

“There are very few events as special and long lasting as our show,” said Wolf.

Information about event winners can be found at:

Sean is a writer and photographer from California’s Central Coast. He began reporting for BenitoLink in 2015. Sean received his BA in communication from CSU Monterey Bay and he has covered news stories...