Monday, September 23, 2019

Bill Pickett Rodeo History 2019 Part 1

On Saturday, I drove to Maryland along with two fellow barn mates.
We were all buzzing with excitement because of the reason: The Bill Pickett Rodeo.
The last time I'd attended was two years ago.
We brought two horses from the farm.
Don Jr with his horse, Dolly. 
I borrowed this wonderful paint mare from a Maryland friend(I cannot for the life of me remember what the mare's name is).
 I rode in the opening ceremony.
It was fantastic. 

I was excited about what this year would bring. This was the Bill Pickett Rodeo's 35th year. 
I never knew about the rodeo until two years ago. In all of the years I subscribed to the main horse magazines I never saw any mention of it. 
So here's a bit of history about it. 
Lu Vason attended the Cheyenne Frontier Days in 1977, and noticed the lack of Black cowboys participating. Curiosity captured him. Were people aware of the cultural history of Black cowboys? He did some digging and created an all-Black rodeo called the Bill Pickett Invitation Rodeo. He wanted to break the narrative of Black people not being present in the story of the west. He named the rodeo after Bill Pickett. Bill Pickett is credited with creating the technique of bulldogging. 
Vance said, "People knew the name Will Rogers. But who they hadn't heard of was Bill Picket and if they had, they didn't know he was Black."
He wanted to use the rodeo as a way to educate people, and to create a new business. 
The first Bill Pickett Rodeo was held in 1984 in Denver, Colorado. Today, the rodeo brings in over 130,000 spectators across the United States. Both of the Maryland shows on Saturday were sold out.
In the last two or so years, major non-equestrian publications such as Smithsonian magazineNew York Times and The New Yorker have covered the history of Black western riders and the white washing of the American west. Black Reins was created in 2013 to spotlight the black cowboy and to "shed light and represent the strong tradition of these heroes--both men and women-who have been left out of mainstream media publications....." They also highlight diverse riders on their Facebook page. 
Vance passed away in 2015. He said, "The Rodeo is education; I'm trying to promote the culture of the Black west. A lot of people can't relate to the pyramids in Africa. I believe a lot of us can better relate to Black Americans who were a part of developing this country."

1 comment:

  1. I knew about Bill Pickett from stamp-collecting. But I did not know about this rodeo. Brava!!

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