This is rodeo country. About half of pro rodeos in California are held in or very near the Central Valley, which makes sense if you think of roping, riding, racing, and wrangling as fundamentally rural.
But historians say that’s not quite right. Rodeos arose after the Civil War. They evolved in part from competitive cowboy R-and-R after long, hard cattle drives. Impromptu skill contests offered good, clean, social fun, after eating all that dust on lonely trails, delivering beef on the hoof to hungry eastern markets. Rodeos also took up elements of wildly popular outdoor urban entertainment based on the romance of a Wild West that started to disappear almost as soon as it galloped into the American imagination. Buffalo Bill Cody, Calamity Jane, and other stars of traveling rodeos and exhibitions created job opportunities that kept cowboys employed well into the 20th century.
The best thing about rodeos then is the best thing about rodeos now: Everyone in town shows up to get in on the fun.
The professional Redding Rodeo is also a hometown rodeo. Most people credit Redding’s own Asphalt Cowboys—look for the yellow shirts and green bandanas—who do most of the heavy lifting, from cooking up pancakes and sausage for 11,000 people to planning and, ultimately, executing, the search for the Lone Stranger and his bank-robbing buddies.
Rodeo Event Highlights
- Sat, May 14 - BBQ Kick Off & Dance at 5 p.m.
- Tues, May 17 - Asphalt Cowboys Annual Chili Cook-Off at 5 p.m.
- Wed, May 18 - Family Night at Rodeo, gates open at 5:30 p.m.
- Fri, May20th - Pancake Breakfast at 10 a.m.
- Sat, May 21 - Redding Rodeo Parade at 10 a.m.
Get the full event schedule at www.reddingrodeo.com
Rodeo Week proper kicks off with a Monday bank heist on May 16. Thanks to the public’s help in deciphering clues, every year the culprits are finally identified and brought to justice. On Tuesday evening, May 17, come for the Chili Cookoff, quick-draw contest and “shootout”—B-Y-O guns, blanks provided—and plenty of boot-scootin’ during the Street Dance. All these events held in the evening at Buckaroo Flats, a.k.a. the rodeo grounds near the civic center and Turtle Bay. On Thursday, May 19, there’s the Kiddie Pet Parade at the Mt. Shasta Mall.
Come Friday, May 20, parents start prying the kids out of bed in the dark to get to the Pancake Breakfast downtown, in front of the Cascade Theater, before school. According to local lore, back in the day Asphalt Cowboys would mix up the pancake batter in wheelbarrows and then race up and down behind the row of griddles so “chefs” could scoop up buckets of batter as needed. Now, that’s cowboy!
The downtown Redding Rodeo Parade is Saturday, May 21, starting at 10 a.m. (come early if you want a good spot). Grand Marshall of this year's parade is Palo Cedro native and Olympic Gold Medalist Megan Rapinoe of the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team.
The rodeo itself, a four-evening event, kicks up on Wednesday, May 18, and runs through the Challenge of Champions on Saturday night, May 21. Get tickets and more info about the Redding Rodeo online. Otherwise: Cowboy up!
Kim Weir is founder and editor of www.uptheroad.org, a nonprofit public-interest journalism project dedicated to sustaining the Northern California story. A long-time member of the Society of American Travel Writers, she is also a former NSPR reporter.