For the unfamiliar, Stonyford is located in the northwest corner of Colusa County, about 110 miles above Sacramento. It borders the Mendocino National Forest and provides entrance to the East Park Reservoir. It is a settled community with a rich history dating back to 1863. The rodeo, itself, began as an amateur event in 1939. It became professional in 1945, when joining the California Cowboy Association (CCA); it became a name event in 1976, when joining the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA). The rodeo attracts talented locals and big-name professionals.
For the uninitiated, rodeo is a pageant of the American West. Its events are those that a cowboy has to master to be good at his job. They are events that have been memorialized by Hollywood. They are events that are chock full of action, as well as triumph and heartbreak. Triumph comes with that rare, and often stunning, eight-second bull, bareback or saddle-bronc ride. Heartbreak comes to every rider who fails to stay on his animal’s back, or who misses with his lasso, or is unable to throw his eight-hundred pound steer.
Like a pageant, the rodeo has a cast of performers. The main performers are, of course, the cowboy contestants who ride the bulls and broncs, rope the calves, and throw the steers. But there are others who risk life and limb, as well. There are the bull-fighting cowboys, the pick-up men, the announcer, and the rodeo clown—who is also the barrel man.
The bullfighters are brave and skillful cowboys. They wear colorful clothing to attract the bulls and prevent them from turning on the rider they have just thrown. The pick-up men are expert horsemen who come along side of a bucking horse to retrieve the rider still aboard at the sound of the buzzer. The announcer is the man on horseback, expert on rodeo facts, who keeps the crowd informed. He’s also the straight man to the rodeo clowns’s one liners. The rodeo clown is also the man in the barrel for the bull and steer-riding events. The barrel is used to attract the bull away from the thrown rider. At the Stonyford Rodeo, these performers are the best in the business.
Eric Layton and Tim O’Conner are the bullfighters. Eric was a champion amateur bullfighter and was named bullfighter of the year in his first two amateur years. He turned professional in 2005 and has worked some of the best PRCA rodeos on the west coast. Tim has been bullfighting for more than eleven years as a member of the PRCA. He has been selected five times to protect the bull riders for the California Circuit Finals, in addition to many other major rodeos.
Bobby Marriott and Matt Twitchell are the pick-up men. Bobby has more than fourteen years experience. He was voted by the PRCA rough stock riders to pick-up at the NFR in Las Vegas, in both 2006 and 2009. Matt is on his fourth year as a pick-up rider and has demonstrated skills that will take him to the top of his profession.
Don Jesser is the announcer. In 2013, Don celebrated his twentieth year at Stonyford. He is a great announcer and very knowledgeable about this sport, and he works exceptionally well with rodeo clown Troy Lerwill.
Troy Lerwill (The Wild Child), 6-times PRCA Comedy Act of the Year, will bring his award-winning motorcycle and wisecracking clown acts back to the Stonyford arena for the third time. He appeared in 2006 and again in 2009. On both occasions, the crowd loved him.
Even way behind the scenes, the Stonyford Rodeo is staffed with the best in the business. The secretary for 2014 is Haley Schneeberger; she was voted 2013 PRCA Secretary of the Year. The secretary has an important job: she keeps track of official scores and times, she works with the judges to monitor animals and record the contestant’s draw of an animal athlete for their event, and she collects entry fees, calculates purses, and determines how many places will be paid. Lastly, she mails the results to the national headquarters, so that official championship points are assigned to the winning cowboys.
As has been shown, small town or not, the Stonyford Rodeo is the equal of the big-town events in Red Bluff, Redding, or, even, San Francisco. Come on out. Rodeo Saturday begins with a parade through town at 10 a.m.; the rodeo begins at 1 p.m. Sunday’s rodeo begins at noon. Tickets are available online at www.stonycreekhorsemen.org and at the following stores: Stonyford General Store, Stonyford; Carl’s Feed, Willows; Boot Barn, Chico and Yuba City; Bucke’s Feed & Grain, Orland; Marie’s Lakeshore Feed, Clearlake; Rainbow Ag, Lakeport; and Mendocino Co. Farm Supply, Ukiah.