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May 8, 2018 > Rowell Ranch Rodeo returns

Rowell Ranch Rodeo returns

By David R. Newman

Put on your boots and get ready to saddle up ? its time for the 98th Annual Rowell Ranch Rodeo! Join folks from around the region as they gallop over to Castro Valley to celebrate the western lifestyle with a variety of events, including a chili cook-off, parade, cowgirl picnic, bull bash, and the rodeo itself.

It all kicks off Friday evening May 11 with the Chili Cook-Off, an event hosted by the Rotary Club of Castro Valley and held at Rowell Ranch Rodeo Park in Dublin Canyon. Over 20 teams will compete for prize money and bragging rights. Its sure to be a rootin? tootin? good time for all!

The next day, come see the 36th Annual Rowell Ranch Rodeo Parade, also hosted by the Rotary Club. Spectators will be treated to a variety of floats, marching bands, car clubs, and horse contingents as community groups strut their stuff down Castro Valley Boulevard. Over 50 entries will be on display in this volunteer-run celebration of the region?s rural roots. It?s also a chance to see Becka Savery, this year?s Rodeo Queen, a 24-year-old from Hayward who will help promote the rodeo in the coming year.

After the parade, you may want to mosey on over to the rodeo grounds for some good ole fashion Team Sorting, a fun, free event where local celebrities are paired with experienced cowboys and cowgirls, and together attempt to herd cattle into a corral. This is followed by a BBQ tri-tip dinner and dance with live music.

The festivities continue at the rodeo grounds the following week with the 7th Annual Cowgirl Picnic on Thursday, May 17. Janet Lemmons, owner of Rowells Saddlery in downtown Castro Valley and rodeo board member, loves this event. Its a ladies? luncheon that is served by cowboys, ranchers, and firemen. Its a wonderful lunch, and its so beautiful out there with the big oak trees and picnic tables. There is also a raffle and silent auction. All proceeds go towards a Cowgirl Spirit Scholarship, awarded every year to any high school senior girl who exhibits strength and conviction of purpose. Says Lemmons, ?Anyone can apply. You don?t have to be horse-oriented. The only criteria is that you truly believe in what you?re doing.? Over $10,000 has been awarded to date.

More events follow, all leading up to the Rowell Ranch PRCA Pro Rodeo and Junior Rodeo on Saturday and Sunday. Although thousands of rodeos are held every year across the country, only about 600 are sanctioned by the Professional Rodeos Cowboy Association. Events include team roping, barrel racing, saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, steer wrestling, and bull riding. A Special Partners portion of the program allows children with mental or physical challenges to participate in simulated rodeo events. Folks can also get a behind-the-scenes tour if they sign up for the Cowboy Experience.

Says Lemmons, ?It?s a tough life for most cowboys. They usually have to pay their own way ? gas, food, lodging, animal care, etc. They do it because they love it, and they live it. There?s a camaraderie. They?re competing against each other, but they?re helping each other along the way.? Spring is an especially busy time, with several rodeos occurring across the state. Many participants try to hit a many as they can on any given weekend.

Lemmons? sons are both active in junior rodeo, and one of them helps her in the store, hand tooling leather saddles. It?s a family operation, like the rodeo itself, which started back in 1925 on Harry and Maggie Rowell?s ranch. After Harry?s death, Maggie sold the land to the Hayward Area Recreation & Park District (HARD) with the stipulation that they make it available every year to the rodeo. A non-profit was formed in 1977 to preserve their legacy.

The parade has certainly evolved over time. Originally held in Hayward, it was discontinued and later brought to Castro Valley. Says Cliff Sherwood, longtime rotary member and one of those responsible for its revival, ?There was no parade in town at the time. We looked at it as a way to provide community service and to celebrate our rodeo culture.?

The rodeo and HARD have been under heat in recent years from animal rights groups, who say that the wild cow milking and mutton busting events are cruel and unnecessary. In March of this year, however, the HARD board voted 4-1 to keep the events.

Yes siree bob, the Bay Area may be known for its fast pace and high tech innovations, but hidden amongst the foothills lie several big ranches run by generations of ranchers, cowboys, and cowgirls. The Rowell Ranch Rodeo is a celebration of this slower, friendlier way of life. And you heard that straight from the horse?s mouth.

For more information and to purchase tickets, call (510) 581-2577 or visit

Chili Cook-Off
Friday, May 11
5:00 p.m.
Free Entry & Parking

Rowell Ranch Rodeo Parade
Saturday, May 12
10:00 a.m.
Castro Valley Blvd, Castro Valley

Pro & Celebrity Team Sorting & BBQ
Saturday, May 12
1:30 p.m.: Open Team Sorting
4:00 p.m.: Celebrity Team Sorting
6:00 p.m.: BBQ and Dance
Admission: $20 (advanced tickets required)

Cowgirl Picnic
Thursday, May 17
11:00 a.m. ? 2:00 p.m.
Admission: $50

Local Team Roping
Thursday, May 17
5:00 p.m.

PRCA Slack
Friday, May 18
9:00 a.m. ? 12:00 p.m.

Chutes & Skirts
Friday, May 18
5:30 p.m.
Admission: $40 (advanced tickets required)

Bull Bash & Wild Cow Milking
Friday, May 18
7:30 p.m.
Admission: $20 ? $40

Rowell Ranch PRCA Pro Rodeo
Saturday, May 19
10:00 a.m.: Gates Open
10:30 a.m.: Special Partners Event
12:00 p.m.: Cowboy Experience
1:30 p.m.: Rodeo Grand Entry
5:00 p.m.: Tri-tip BBQ & live music
Sunday, May 20
10:00 a.m.: Gates Open
12:00 p.m.: Cowboy Experience
1:30 p.m.: Rodeo Grand Entry
Admission: $17 ? $50

Rowell Ranch Rodeo Park
9725 Dublin Canyon Rd, Castro Valley
(510) 581-2577

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