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Lake County Rodeo History

Compiled by John R. Fulton with assistance from Bob Kesling

Rodeo is the only sport that had its origin in a major industry, that of raising cattle. Rodeo is a Spanish word meaning "roundup". It is indeed a sport as those engaged pay for the privilege of contesting for the prize money. This payment is in the form of entry fees and it really means that the cowboy (girl) bets (the amount of the entry fee) that he/she can win against the other contestants in the same event. Such is the spirit of true sportsmanship.

In the old days before fences, twice a year ~ spring and fall ~ roundups were held. At this time the cowboys from the various ranches formed a large crew and 'worked' the range. All the animals that could be found were rounded up and separated to the different ranches, determined by the brands they wore. Unbranded calves were branded with the brand worn by the cows they were following, thus establishing ownership by the ranch.

At these roundups, cowboys of one ranch matched one of their number against a cowboy from another ranch in roping or bronc riding. Later these contests became rodeos, with other events being added. The first known contest where cash prizes were paid was at Pecos, Texas, in 1835! That contest was to settle a dispute of long standing as to who was the best rider and best roper in a large area.

Prescott, Arizona holds the distinction of hosting the first contest where spectators were charged admission. This event took place on July 4, 1888. Since that time, several rodeos have celebrated their Golden Anniversaries: Cheyenne Frontier days and Lander Pioneer Days, both in the State of Wyoming. Over the past century (plus), rodeo has grown steadily in popularity and ranks as one of the top spectator sports throughout the United States as well as in Canada and Australia, where the sport is known as a 'stampede'.

A rodeo is normally produced by a local committee or association and is attended by the cowboys and cowgirls who come from near and far to compete against one another as well as the animals they are pitted against in some of the events.

Furnishing the stock for rodeos has become a big business unto itself. Stock contractors have thousands of dollars invested in rearing, bucking, twisting animals and rent them to the rodeo management for the term of the show.

Rodeo is a most dangerous sport with the cowboys pitting their strength and trickiness against that of the animals they work with in the arena. Many times the animal wins, and it is hard to find a cowboy who is not an exhibit of the doctor's and surgeon's skill in patching up injuries more or less serious. These same competitors are soon back in the arena, sometimes before they have a doctor's consent. Despite the danger element of this sport, there are comparatively few fatal injuries.

A big step ahead in the history of rodeo was made in 1929 when a large number of the rodeo managements organized the rodeo Association of America. the second large step in standardizing the sport came in 1936 when the cowboys organized themselves into the Cowboys turtle Association, this became the Rodeo Cowboys Association and in Lake County our Rodeo is now held under the auspices of the California Cowboy Pro Rodeo Association (CCPRA).

Originating as it did in the business of cattle raising, rodeo features four main events in which cowboys became proficient in their daily work on ranches: saddle bronc riding, calf roping, team tying and single steer tying. To these have been added for show purposes, other events which are spectacular, though not practical in ranch work, namely: bareback riding, bulldogging, wild cow milking and for the women, barrel racing.

The Chronological History of
Lake County Rodeo 



Annual rodeos held by Salvador Vallejo on his ranch which covered Bachelor, Scotts and Big Valleys, as well as Upper Lake.



South Lower Lake ~ Billie Clayton Ranch Middletown area south toward Pope Valley ~ Ink Ranch included community roundup/ rodeo, free barbecue, bronc busting, calf roping along with marking and branding.
Corrals in use until about 1920.



Clearlake Highlands, John Garner ranch for three years.



South of Cache Creek, just east of old highway, Warren Reynold held one rodeo.



Early 1920's ~ two-day events at Austin ballpark, successful and for next two years, rodeos held at Herrick Field, northeast of Lower lake.


1922 ~ 1925

Upper Lake High School area one year, two years at old sawmill site.



Herrick Field, Lower Lake.



Lucerne, small rodeos for two years in flat below Lucerne Hotel.



Successive rodeos began in Lakeport, over Labor Day, by the Lake County Sports and Rodeo Association.  The rodeo was held at the present site of the Lake County Fairgrounds, but with no connection with any other fair.  Local riders as well as riders from Sacramento, Fortuna and Chowchilla participated.



July 13 & 14 Lakeport Rodeo at Lupyoma Park, purses given for bronc riding, calf roping, bull riding and bareback riding. Participating in the rodeo will be members of the Clear Lake Horsemen's Association.

August 31 to September 2 Rodeo Horse Show sponsored by the Clear lake Horsemen's Association. On Saturday, August 31 ~ Main Street closed to traffic and free street dance held in front of courthouse. this is the first dance held since the war. A parade through Lakeport to be held each day before the rodeo starts. the horse show will include classes for: Trail horse and color events, a stake race and an event for children under 12. In addition to the horse show, a full-fledged rodeo will be staged on each of three days. A special event will be held for local riding talent.



Herrick field, Lower lake, last rodeos held in South County.
This research indicates that the rodeo scheduled for July, 1993, was the 64th annual rodeo sponsored by the organization now known as the Lake County Rodeo Association.


Still an all-volunteer organization comprised of local residents who love rodeo and work hard each and every year to continue this Lake County tradition. the Clear Lake Junior Horsement continue to perform each year with youngsters from Lake County practicing for their appearance each night in the Grand Entry! Imagine the stories they will tell in the future when the Annual Rodeo opens with their children in those saddles!

Join us this year for the Lake County Rodeo, Rodeo Parade and Dance.