The 92nd annual Rowell Ranch Rodeo starts its three-day run Friday night at the park by the same name on Dublin Canyon Road between Castro Valley and Dublin.
Those attending will get an up-close glimpse of the “Cowboy Way” in action.
Helping them along will be veteran announcer Randy Corley. The 11-time Rodeo Announcer of the Year thinks he’s been working the Rowell Ranch Rodeo for 25 years. He often is chosen to work the National Finals Rodeo each year.
“At Rowell one of the things that make it such a good show is that it’s a production of Flying U and Cotton Rosser,” Corley said. “Cotton has long been one of the top livestock contractors. But he’s always had the belief the audience needs to see the very best entertainment you can give them, and that includes cowboys, livestock and entertainment.”
Rosser also provides the bulls, broncs, steers and other livestock for the NFR each December in Las Vegas as well as many other rodeos on the West Coast.
Rosser likes to use a rodeo clown, who is not to be confused with the bull fighters.
“You asked about some of the changes over the years,” Corley said, “at that’s one of them. Early on in rodeo (the clowns and bullfighters) were about the same. Now the clown will assist, but we’ll have a couple of bullfighters who are out there to save the cowboys, and they’re super athletes.”
Donny Landes will be the clown.
And carrying the show along through not only the bull riding but also the other events of bareback-bronc riding, saddle-back riding, team roping, tie-down roping, steer wrestling and women’s barrel racing is Corley at the microphone.
He offers tidbits on some of the cowboys and cowgirls, brief insights to what’s going on in the arena and often offering a few words of encouragement when a competitor comes up short.
“We always try to let them know we want them back next year,” Corley said.
A 32-year veteran, Corley grew up on ranches in eastern Wyoming, going to elementary school in tiny Lance Creek, “and then the four of us graduated and went to high school is Lusk.” He now resides in Washington state on the peninsula west of the Puget Sound across from Seattle.
The crowds at the Rowell Ranch Rodeo are a cross-section, he said.
“I was amazed at how many” ranch people there are in this area, despite it being in the middle of a big metropolitan area, Corley said, “and we get a lot of city people.”
Janet Lemmons, a partner in the Rowell Saddlery and Western Wear store on Castro Valley Boulevard, has been the public relations director of the rodeo for more than 20 years and notes some of the changes.
“The athletes are getting better, the cowboys are better, the livestock is better,” Lemmons said. As far as the crowds the event attracts, she says, “We’ve always been a family event. A family can come out and enjoy an event for the whole afternoon.”
Rodeo director Russ Fields points to a $35 family four-pack that is offered.
The centerpiece of the weekend are the rodeo performances Saturday and Sunday afternoons, featuring Pro Rodeo Cowboy Association competitors in six events and Women’s Pro Rodeo Association riders in barrel racing.
But with 54 entrants in bull riding, 30 will ride Friday night in the Rockin’ Bull Bash, with 12 each going Saturday and Sunday.
The facility can seat 3,500, and Fields expects of 3,200 to 3,500 on Saturday and Sunday and about 1,500 fans on Friday. That event will start at 7 p.m. and will be followed by a dance with live music. There is also a barbecue and dance at 7 on Saturday night.
There will also be a local team roping event at 5 p.m. on Thursday and wild-cow milking on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, he said.
Among the entrants are two top steer wrestlers from Northern California. Ethen Thouvenell of Napa tops the PRCA steer wrestling standings, and in third place is Billy Bugenig from Ferndale near Eureka. Bugenig won the event at Rowell Ranch last year.
Plus there are some local competitors. Three high school athletes from District 4 will be riding yearling bulls on Friday and there are a few cowboys from Castro Valley competing in the pro events.
Ethan Lemmons will go in bull riding on Friday and saddle-bronc riding on Sunday. Ory Lemmons goes in steer wrestling on Saturday and Kyle Davilla in steer wrestling on Sunday.
A rodeo schedule and a list of this author's five favorite rodeo songs are attached as pdf's to this story.
For more information, see rowellranchrodeo.com