Penn Valley Rodeo to take off this weekend |

Penn Valley Rodeo to take off this weekend

Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

What: 56th Annual Penn Valley Rodeo

When: May 17, 18, 19

Where: Behind the fire station on Spenceville Road at Penn Valley Drive.

Admission: Tickets at the gate: $15 adults, $5 children 6 to 12, children under 6 free

$10 Advance Adult Tickets online at

The fast-paced action of bucking bulls and barrel races will take off this weekend with the 56th annual Penn Valley Rodeo.

The event will kick off 5 p.m. Friday with a cowboy-style barbecue and grand entry will begin at 7 p.m., which will include Brian Potter the Clown, who will perform comedic antics with bulls, broncs, steer wrestlers, ropers and barrel races.

The Gold Express Equestrian Drill Team will perform horseback maneuvers and James Slack Band will perform country/western music.

“It is a fun event that is dear to the heart of people in Penn Valley because it’s been a tradition for almost 60 years,” said Marilyn Bourdet, a board member of the Penn Valley Rodeo Association.

The nonprofit organization produces the event with support from sponsors and volunteers, and also supports community programs and hosts animal help clinics.

The rodeo also brings an economic boost to Nevada County, as spectators, competitors and contestants spend money and stay locally during their visit, Bourdet said. The Rodeo Parade will begin at 3 p.m. Saturday with horses, horse-drawn wagons, floats, marching groups, bands and antique tractors traveling from Western Gateway Park to the rodeo grounds. Visitors can arrive at 2 p.m. and bring chairs to watch the parade.

Saturday’s grand entry will begin at 5:30 p.m. Food will be offered by the Snack Shack; there is a Cook House barbecue dinner at 4 p.m. and the Beer Garden will provide a variety of beverages for sale.

On Sunday, a Cowboy Church will take place on the Wells Fargo Bank stage with old-time worship by Kip Holbrook and the Hale Family and Friends. Breakfast will be available at the old firehouse from 7:30-11 a.m.

A Community Rodeo Playday will begin at 10 a.m. Sunday with free admission and a day of rodeo and events for all ages. The rodeo is a way to support and uphold the agricultural community and honor the tradition of rodeo, Bourdet said, adding, “The roots of the community are still in agriculture.”

The Penn Valley rodeo began in 1956 as a fundraiser for the Penn Valley Fire Department, was discontinued from lack of support in 2004 and revamped in 2005 with the community-formed association, which has hosted the event ever since, Bourdet said.

The roots of rodeo began in the 1700s and developed into a competitive sport that is still upheld today to reflect the importance of the ranching community, Bourdet said.

“The rodeo honors the past and it’s very important in the minds of a lot of people who have grown up that way and are still existing in the ranching tradition,” she said.

Part of the significance is also to preserve the dwindling agricultural community, said association Director Richard “Doc” Halstead.

“A lot of old-timers die off and their children may not live here and a lot of the agricultural land becomes development property,” Halstead said. “We have a lot of people who come to Nevada County who want the rural lifestyle and we’re struggling to keep it going.”

The event boasts about 5,000 to 6,000 visitors from all over the country, and sometimes even internationally, Halstead said.

“We had people from Germany who came for the Amgen (Tour of California) bike race when it was in Nevada City a few years back who attended the rodeo that year, and continue to visit,” he said.

Saturday’s ceremony will also include recognition of Dale Baptie, a recently deceased community member who is being honored as this year’s Grand Marshal, a title that honors a civically involved member of the community.

“Dale was one of the founding members of the rodeo and he single-handedly put together all the work crews to rehabilitate the rodeo grounds,” Halstead said, adding that Baptie was always available to help people in a time of need.

“He was just one of those givers and he was a wonderful person. His passing is a great loss to the whole community.”

Tickets will be available at the gate on Spenceville Road at Penn Valley Drive for $15 for adults and $5 for children older than 6. Entry is free for children younger than 6.

“We want to encourage people to come and bring their kids, because the kids are going to grow up and we want to perpetuate the rodeo as a pass-down of Western heritage,” said Halstead. “We’re trying to make a stand to keep up a life we’re blessed to have here in Nevada County.”

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email or call 530-477-4230.

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