(Editor’s note: This is the final installment in The Leader’s three-part series on the history of the Oakdale Rodeo and its sponsoring organization, the Oakdale Saddle Club.)
In today’s world, organizations have to evolve to stay relevant. In an era of cell phones and computers that enable lightning-fast communications, the Oakdale Saddle Club is keeping up with the times, reaching out to new audiences, and still keeping western traditions alive.
OSC board member Dan Vigil, who is serving his 19th year as a director, and his wife Debbi, who has been the club’s treasurer for 20 years, have belonged to the Saddle Club for 35 years. They’re not the longest-standing members, but longtime members nonetheless and they can attest to a number of changes the club has experienced through the years.
“We joined in 1977 and brought our kids up through the club,” Dan said. “…Now we have grandkids coming up and taking our place.”
Dan recalled that he and Debbi first came to the Oakdale Rodeo in 1975 from Sacramento to help Debbi’s sister Sharyan while she ran the rodeo’s cook shack.
“Once we found out what the country livin’ was like, we sold our home in Citrus Heights and moved to Oakdale,” Dan shared, adding that he was able to transfer with his job. “Bought a horse. Bought two horses. Wound up with six.”
Debbi said that at that time the requirements to join the Saddle Club included that members had to own a horse, have a horse trailer, and have a sponsor within the club. Now, the requirements have relaxed a little, but a sponsor is still required.
“We started out back then, probably 100 to 150 members,” Dan reported. “Now, we’re over 300 (members). A couple years ago we had to stop membership, then we opened it back up.”
The OSC accepts member applications once a year. In recent times, the club has had 30 to 40 new members added a year.
The Vigils have seen various transformations in the Saddle Club over time but believe that the changes that have had the most impact are the technological advances. They said that the OSC really began to get more modernized in the 1990s when computers and the Internet came into play.
Now, Internet ticket sales for the rodeo have taken off and grown each year, they said. However, when a desire bubbled within some members to make some more technology-based modernizations, there were some initial challenges in getting buy-in from everyone.
“We had the hardest time convincing members and the board that we’re in the modern days of iPhones, the Internet…,” Dan said with a chuckle.
“Now we’re reaching out to people coming from the Bay Area, L.A., overseas – like Germany, because of Facebook,” Debbi added.
Another newer technological feature the OSC has employed is “ClicknPrint” so people can buy Oakdale Rodeo tickets online and print them out. Debbi said that the club used to rely primarily on the rodeo queen candidates for the pre-rodeo ticket sales.
“You can go right now and order the ticket,” Dan said.
They also revealed that there is a scanner code on this year’s new rodeo poster, where if a person uses their smartphone to scan the code, it’ll take them directly to the Oakdale Rodeo website.
As time has passed, like all things, expenses have increased and the price of tickets has gone up as well.
“I remember when rodeo tickets were $8 at the front gate,” Dan said.
Today, Oakdale Rodeo tickets cost $20 at the gate but a deal can be had by going online to buy them. The pre-sale tickets can be purchased through the rodeo’s website for $15 each.
The OSC is now also employing the technology known as mobile ticketing for people to use their smartphones as their rodeo ticket, which can then be scanned at the gate, Dan said.
Other changes the club has seen over the years, the Vigils noted, are better sponsorship packages. One example is the Wrangler sponsorship for the rodeo that Dan was instrumental in bringing to the OSC. Wrangler is a national rodeo sponsor and is the primary sponsor of the National Finals Rodeo (NFR). Dan stated that this year, starting in mid-March, if a patron buys $50 worth of Wrangler merchandise at one of the local western wear stores, such as Oakdale Feed and Seed, Conlin’s, or Bucksworth, then that patron will get a voucher for a free Oakdale Rodeo ticket.
“Wrangler supports us with the vouchers, the public is getting the ticket, and the stores get the sales. So, it’s good for the community,” Debbi said.
Dan added that because the promotion went so well last year, Wrangler decided to increase the number of vouchers available and start the promotion earlier this year.
Debbi also noted that cigarette company sponsorships used to be around but are now a thing of the past.
A couple big changes that have been made on the OSC’s rodeo grounds have included a major earth moving project in the main arena to install a drainage system several years ago and getting hooked up to city water just last year.
The Vigils said that there are approximately 35 committees in the club and they have served on almost all of them over the years. Some of the OSC committees include concessions, maintenance, arena, program, signs, sponsorships, parade, and rentals, just to name a few. Debbi noted that there are all kinds of things to do and it’s all volunteer work done by the club members.
“This is out of the love of rodeo and the western way of life,” she said.
Due to the many events that the Oakdale Saddle Club hosts at the rodeo grounds – more than just the rodeo – there is a lot of maintenance involved. The Vigils said that OSC also makes it a point to keep its business in Oakdale whenever possible.
“We try to keep the money we spend on the grounds in town and support local businesses,” she said.
The couple also commented on how many youngsters have grown up in the club who’ve gone on to obtain notable achievements in the arena. Debbi said that years ago, the kids participated in Junior Rodeo, then Norcal Junior Rodeo was formed, and some of the OSC’s young members went on to compete in the high school national finals, and a couple even made their mark on professional rodeo and made it to the NFR.
This year’s Oakdale Rodeo takes place April 14-15.