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Oakdale’s Ed and Darla Viohl named Grand Marshals
GM 24
Longtime Oakdale Saddle Club members and supporters, Ed and Darla Viohl of Oakdale have been selected as the Grand Marshals for the 2024 rodeo parade, set for Saturday, April 13. Photo By Marg Jackson

They are both honored and excited; longtime Oakdale residents Ed and Darla Viohl will have the prime spot for the Oakdale Rodeo Parade on Saturday morning, April 13. The duo has been selected to serve as Grand Marshals for the parade and will also enjoy taking part in the Grand Entry at the Oakdale Saddle Club Rodeo Grounds for the Saturday and Sunday afternoon rodeo competitions.

Ed and Darla have been married for more than 13 years, both having lost their previous spouse. Ed has lived in Oakdale since 1966 and has been involved with the Oakdale Saddle Club for nearly three decades. Darla was born and raised in Texas and though she hasn’t lived here quite as long as her now-husband, she has also been active in the Saddle Club over the years.

“We have helped with the VIP booth, getting people in there,” Ed said of where their main focus has been during rodeo time the past few years.

But in 2024, they will get to sit in that VIP area, enjoying the rodeo and sharing the Western way of life with those surrounding them.

“It’s quite an honor,” Ed said.

He joined the Oakdale Police Department in 1966 and moved to the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department in 1968; he served there as a deputy sheriff for many years and was a founding member of the department’s mounted patrol unit.

Darla worked for many years at Campbell’s Soup in Modesto.

Along with Saddle Club involvement, Ed spent many years in service to the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce, including a couple of terms as president. He continues to be a part of the Chamber Foundation board, which helps oversee the scholarship program.

He pointed to the fun ‘Arrest Round Up’ during Rodeo Week that helps raise funds for those scholarships as an important feature of the festivities. He and Darla also marveled at the number of luncheons around the community – an idea that originally began with the Cowgirl Luncheon and has now expanded to include several other options for those that can’t get into the always-sold-out ‘Cowgirl’ event.

“We enjoy preparing for the rodeo and watching it all come together,” Ed said. “It’s also great to have the Queen coronation downtown.”

“Oakdale does such a great job with all the events,” Darla agreed.

The two are looking forward to the parade and are ready to embrace the role of Grand Marshal.

“This will be the first year I haven’t worked that weekend,” Ed joked.

Asked about their favorite part of the Rodeo Week festivities, Darla confided that Ed’s ‘must have’ is the biscuits and gravy that Norm Mendenhall makes on Friday and Saturday mornings at the rodeo grounds, while everything is getting prepped for the action to come.

“I think I enjoy watching the people,” Darla said, with plenty of folks coming to town for the rodeo and associated activities.

Both Ed and Darla have spent a fair amount of time over the years working on projects at the grounds, as there is always a project underway and lots of maintenance to do. Starting in February, Ed said, the work really kicks into high gear, preparing for the big weekend.

Ed said he is glad to also see a strong working relationship between the Saddle Club and the City of Oakdale, as the rodeo is a beneficial event for the city in terms of revenue brought in.

And for Ed, he has seen the rodeo itself continue to grow in popularity.

“They’re doing something right,” he said of Saddle Club leaders. “They’ve improved it every year and it is a good quality rodeo.”