It was a slice of Americana, a wild weekend party, an homage to those cowboys lost in recent months … and there were record crowds there to drink it all in.
Oakdale Saddle Club’s PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) Rodeo was the capstone event, played out in the arena on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon, Aug. 14 and 15, but there was plenty of activity spread elsewhere throughout the week. (Look for additional event coverage and photos on pages A3 and A12 of this week’s issue.)
The Cowgirl Luncheon, Queen Coronation, the annual Rodeo Dance, Saturday morning parade, Sunday morning Cowboy Church … all were part of the celebration. And, based on the wall-to-wall people jammed in to every seat of the bleachers, box seats and often standing several people deep at the fences, people were more than ready to join the fun.
Among the most touching moments was the entry into the arena of the ‘Riderless horse’ to signify loss. In this case, it was to announce the passing of two legendary Oakdale cowboys, Bill Martinelli and Leo Camarillo. Martinelli passed away in May of 2020 and Camarillo in December of 2020. Announcer Jody Carper, above the arena floor, detailed the winning ways in the sport of rodeo for both men, along with the lasting impact they made on their families and community as the horse without a rider was led around the arena.
Earlier, the Grand Entry saw rodeo royalty enter the grounds, including Grand Marshals Harry and Margo Cummins. They have been involved with the Oakdale Saddle Club since 1977 and have been involved with all facets of the club’s activities, including several years working a variety of jobs for rodeo weekend.
Also relishing the opportunity to enter the arena and take that ride to acknowledge the crowd was 2020-2021 Miss Rodeo Oakdale Karissa Rogers, who is filling a two-year reign since there was no rodeo last year due to the pandemic.
The Saturday morning parade was also once again a hit, with plenty of horses, floats, community and school groups, businesses and musical entries taking part.
The overall feel of the rodeo festivities this year, said officials, was one of gratitude; for being able to gather and enjoy the events, for the chance to get out and watch competitors in action.
Oakdale Saddle Club President Billy Jones noted that it was a tough decision not to have a rodeo last year but the move was ultimately one they felt was the right one, safest for all involved. The 2021 event, he added, will be especially notable in the history books because it is the only one not staged the traditional “second weekend in April” – delayed by COVID but not cancelled – hosted instead in mid-August.