photo:History of the Rodeo (Vaqueros)

History of the Rodeo (Vaqueros)

Competencia de Vaqueros–Old Spanish Days Fiesta, Stock Horse Show & Rodeo

The 'Fiesta Stock Horse Show' started as a one-day Saturday afternoon event in 1924 at the old Pershing Park arena on Castillo Street. The Fiesta Stock Horse Show which involved showing stock horses, some cattle work, and roping was last held at Pershing Park in 1957 before the park was renovated towards the tennis courts and ballfields you see today.

For Fiesta 1958 the Fiesta Stock Horse Show was moved to the then brand new Earl Warren Showgrounds of the 19th District Agricultural Association at Highway 101 and Las Positas Road. After the move, a five event RCA (Rodeo Cowboy Association) rodeo show featuring professional steer wrestling, team roping, bareback broncs, saddle broncs, and bull riding was integrated into the Fiesta Stock Horse. The name of the event was then changed to the Old Spanish Days Fiesta Stock Horse Show & Rodeo. The Rodeo was a 5 performance show for many years on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings plus Saturday and Sunday afternoons that also included Mutton Bustin', team penning, and several different stock horse classes.

In 2005, the Fiesta Rodeo had its first ever Professional Bull Riding (PBR) event called the Santa Barbara PBR Challengers Series. The 2005 Rodeo was kicked off with the PBR Thursday evening and had PRCA performances Friday and Saturday with local finals on Sunday. The schedule has since settled on PBR Thursday evening and PRCA performances Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoon. Thursday, Friday and Saturday days as well as Sunday mornings are used for eliminations.

The main endeavor of this portion of the Fiesta celebration is to bring cowboys and cowgirls from the many local ranches in the Tri-Counties to town for excitement and competition. You must live within the Tri-Counties (San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara or Ventura) to be eligible to compete, the objective being to get local amateur type horsemen competing among themselves to see who has the best horse or is the best roper, brander, etc.

Although the paid arena performances are the most well-known, there are other classes and competitions going on throughout the day. They include junior (under 18 years of age) roping, the Hackamore, Ranch Horse Class, 2 Man Ranch Horse Class and other stock horse class eliminations during the days with the top contestants showing in the paid performances. Saturday morning also features amateur team roping and steer stopping. Horse Show classes take place over several days and include events for children through adults including Cowboy Ranch Trail, Cowboy Ranch Riding, Stock Horse Confirmation & Reining Western Pleasure. Sunday morning is the team branding event, which includes a junior division and team penning slack. 

During each paid performance there is a grand entry in which dignitaries and the annually chosen Honorary Vaquero are introduced. The Honorary Vaquero Program was conceived back in the late 1960's by the Chairman of the Fiesta Stock Horse Show & Rodeo at the time, Max R. Watkins. His good intentions were to honor "Old Timers" who so often go through life unrecognized. Each year a person is chosen who has contributed to the community during his or her career and been generous with their time in helping other cattle producers and ranchers with their round-ups and brandings and the cattle industry in general.

Some past chairmen of this event include Jimmy Freeman, Ed Van Cleve, Dick May, Max Watkins, Harlan Brown, Bob Herdman, Paul Righetti, Jim Pollard, Jerry Williams, Don Barnes, Steve Bollinger, Josiah F. Jenkins, Mitch Williams, Dr. Chris Pankau, Greg Simon and Dave Jamieson. Committee members donate their time and often materials to help in the preparation for this annual event.

With our successes in past years, we have been able to make donations to the following groups:

  • The Santa Ynez Valley Equestrian Association
  • The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. Mounted Unit
  • The Boy Scouts of America
  • High School Rodeo
  • Santa Ynez Valley Pony Club
  • The Santa Barbara West Side Boys & Girls Club
  • The San Marcos High School Cheer Leading Squad
  • The Santa Barbara Optimist Club
  • 4-H Club of Lompoc
  • Lucky Clover 4-H of Los Olivos
  • Santa Ynez Valley Historical Society
  • American Indian Health & Services
  • Carriage Museum of Santa Barbara
  • FOR – Friends of Rodeo
  • HEARTS Adaptive Riding
  • 532 Training Squadron “Maintainers” @ Vandenberg AFB
  • Santa Ynez Valley Historical Society & Carriage Museum