Cowboys escaped the 62nd Annual Oakdale Saddle Club Rodeo with $128,753 in earnings on April 13 and 14 — without the pursuit of a posse.
The collective payoff, an Oakdale Rodeo record, was the final measurement of a historic weekend that drew worldwide spectators to the Cowboy Capital of the World for what ultimately became the biggest sporting event in city history.
“We definitely had a record crowd,” Oakdale Rodeo Media Director Kevin Fox said on Monday. “The best of the best was here and the crowd loved it.
“It could not have been better.”
Fox estimated that well over 11,000 tickets were punched, not including the throng of media, staff and a record number of participants also present.
The landmark crowd set the stage for dazzling performances by some of the best cowboys in the world, including 10-time National Finals Rodeo all-around champion, Trevor Brazile, four-time world champion Luke Branquinho and two-time world standings titlist and NFR champion Tuf Cooper.
When the last chunk of earth finally settled back to the arena floor on Sunday, New Mexico’s Jim Ross Cooper emerged as the lone cash-winner in multiple events to seal the honor as the 2013 All-Around Champion ($1,485). He joined a host of buckle-winners that included Oakdale’s Norm Mendenhall, a team roping champion alongside Allen Pruitt. Local cowboys Joe Murry (Oakdale) and Frank Perry claimed top honor in the 50-and-over Gold Card team roping event as well.
Branquinho ($1,506) took top honor in steer wrestling while Cooper ($1,960) snared tie-down prestige. Jesse Wright landed a thrilling 87-point ride to win saddle bronc competition with $2,246 while Seth Hardwick’s 84 ($2,337) was good enough to finish atop the bareback standings.
Coleman Proctor and Caleb Twisslermann (team roping) departed with top honors and $2,659 each. Tiffany Schuster was fastest among barrel racers to win $2,386 while Brennon Eldred led all bull riders with an 85-point ride for $3,107.
The contestants represented likely the deepest pool of talent and former champions in the Oakdale Rodeo’s illustrious history.
“I like to sling the term ‘world class’ around when I am describing the Oakdale Rodeo, but this truly was the best of the best,” Fox said. “Everybody brought their game and it could not have been better.
“It was nonstop action.”
The thrills were a treat for first-time rodeo goer Fred Gaff of Manteca, a Pittsburgh native and nine-year California resident.
“You can only really describe it as a ‘wow’ experience,” Gaff said. “You watch it on TV and you think you know what to expect, but it’s nothing like the adrenaline rush you feel from being there.”
Fox credited the influx of rodeo fans to the progressions of both the Oakdale Saddle Club and professional rodeo. He said the year-old Oakdale Rodeo Facebook page soared to over 6,000 fans after an average of over 200 new fans a day in recent weeks.
“We are taking a cue from other sports like the (Ultimate Fighting Championships), which has a great promotional system,” Fox said. “We had visitors from France, Belgium and Sweden.
“People know the Oakdale Rodeo all around the world.”
Fox said the annual Oakdale Rodeo dance was also the largest in recent memory and said the 130 entries in the Rodeo Parade likely set a record as well.
The festive events, combined with exhilarating livestock thrills in the arena, made for an unforgettable weekend.