I have to admit, this is my first experience with Rodeo Week due to usually taking anniversary vacations in April during my time here at The Leader.
Since the departure of Kim Van Meter – who gladly attended the Annual Cowgirl Luncheon and now I see why – the editorial staff felt it amusing to send a guy to cover this annual event sponsored by the Oakdale Cowboy Museum. (Last year our then-sports guy Ike Dodson got thrown to the wolves).
This year was my opportunity, and since covering general city issues I looked forward to the event. I mean if women sports reporters can go into locker rooms, why couldn’t I cover an event with more than 400 women and free-flowing alcohol?
Upon entering and examining a seating chart I noticed something that I would have to remember: the men’s bathrooms all had been converted to women’s restrooms. That was OK, given the event was at the Bianchi Community Center about 200 feet from the Leader’s backdoor.
With some of the strange looks I got when I entered and went toward my table, I felt it was best to don my press credentials so that those in attendance knew where I stood rather than confuse me with some on-the-prowl pick up artist.
Alcohol was generously served by young strapping cowboys and, since it was still morning, I helped myself to a glass of a mimosa – and thanks to a certain red-headed CEO of a local chamber of commerce, I never saw the bottom of that glass.
I circulated amongst the estrogen-filled gala of women in cowboy boots of various style and fashion; women with jeans either tucked in boots or not, skirts with boots, shorts with boots – you get the picture.
The raffle and auction items were on display near my table that also had Oakdale Mayor Pat Paul seated at it – only in Oakdale would a raffle item be a pink Charter Arms snub-nose revolver.
Cowboy Museum President Dave Brown welcomed the gathering introducing special guests Clements resident Beverly Sparrowk, who was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Fort Worth in 2008 and Erin Ricotti from Escalon, who qualified for the American Rodeo in the barrel racing event by winning the qualifying round held in Mesquite, Texas earlier this year.
This year’s honoree was Bonnie Larson-Fogarty, described as “a true cowgirl in the sense of the word,” who said she was surprised at the announcement after being presented with a plaque for her service.
Lunch, catered by Medlen’s House of Beef, was served by the same cowboys who had been serving the free alcohol. As the afternoon progressed a few of the non-resistant cowboys were coerced into dancing on chairs as screaming women of the table stuffed dollar bills into their W-stitched pockets.
According to Cowboy Museum Executive Director Christie Camarillo, this year’s auction and raffle brought in more than $13,000 for the museum and its scholarship fund with the highest auction item, a reserved table for next year’s Cowgirl Luncheon, going for $1,500.
The auction was highlighted by auctioneer Travis Johnson being carried around the center as he auctioned off a date with himself.
“It’s always a special day where the ladies come to enjoy some girl time while supporting the Cowboy Museum,” Camarillo told me. “It’s fun to watch as we surprise our Cowgirl Honoree, too. This is the best kept secret in town, as the honoree doesn’t know until that day.”
I learned from Camarillo that the event that started off at 80 women in its first year is now a sell-out in its first few hours.
“We’re grateful to have another successful year for this ‘fun-raiser,’” Camarillo said. “We couldn’t do it without the help from our 50 cowboy servers who volunteer their time to come out to help and also the great community support of this event.”
After the event I was informed a great many attendees carried on the fun at the H-B and so… I had to continue my coverage after I got off work, joining many other residents kicking off Rodeo Week.