In a photo reminiscent of the iconic Cattle Call bucking bronc rider statue that graces Plaza Park in Brawley, an unidentified saddle bronc competitor cuts an impressive silhouette in the opening matinee performance of the 65th annual Cattle Call Rodeo on Saturday, Nov. 13. | CAMILO GARCIA JR. PHOTO
BRAWLEY — After the 2020 Cattle Call Rodeo was closed to the public and held as an online-only competition, crowds packed Cattle Call Arena for two performances on Saturday, Nov. 13, and one on Sunday, Nov. 14, a return to an Imperial Valley live tradition for 65 years.
The return of the rodeo as a spectator sport arrived in a big way on Saturday afternoon with the opening performance. A second sold-out performance was held on Saturday night, and a single matinee was held early Sunday afternoon.
“Well, you know what? I love being out here with people, and it’s nice to see that everybody’s ready to come back and get together and is not so scared, I guess you would say,” said Javier Amezcua, sports director for the Sheriff’s Activity League, while he was serving drinks to raise money for the league.
“I’m really excited. I’m glad that we were able to bring it back to the community. I know a lot of folks were very saddened that in 2020, we had to cancel it. I think it’s understandable. But now folks in our community have done their part getting vaccinated, so we’re able to do things like this,” said Tomas Oliva, mayor pro tem of the city of El Centro, who was attending the rodeo in an unofficial capacity.
“Folks couldn’t be happier. We’ve seen children laughing, running around, families enjoying themselves. And that’s what it’s all about,” he said.
The rodeo started with the pageantry of an opening ceremony many have come to expect from Cattle Call, with longtime announcer Randy Corley introducing the Cattle Call court, on horseback no less, to the crowd: Cattle Call Call Queen Rylee Locher, Teen Queen Chyenne Cox, Junior Queen Emerson Brandt, and Junior Miss Savannah Hernandez.
Crowd favorites like “mutton busting” returned, where children competed to see how long they can stay on top of a sheep, and the “Rough and Tough Wild Horse Race,” where teams of three competed to saddle a wild horse fastest.
There was plenty of entertainment, such as the return of rodeo clown and barrel man, Charley “Too Tall” West along with Robbie Hodges. Once again, livestock was provided by the famed Rosser family of The Flying U Rodeo Co. of Marysville.
“I have come every year to Cattle Call for as long as I can remember. I was really upset last year when we couldn’t have one, so it makes me really happy to be here,” Brawley resident David Smith said on Saturday afternoon. “I like to follow the cowboys’ progress through the circuit to see how far they make it.”
The Cattle Call Rodeo is the season opener for the PRCA, the largest rodeo organization in the world. Contestants who participate in Brawley earn points toward their world standings. Rodeo riders compete in six different PRCA events: Bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, tie down, team roping and bull riding.
The rodeo also includes competitions for the Working Ranch Cowboys Association, another major rodeo circuit, which included barrel race, a race between riders to see who can navigate barrel obstacle course on horseback, and team penning, which features five teams of local contestants competing for the fastest time penning three steers.
“I am so excited to see the horses! I love animals. I got to pet one as we came in because it came to the fence. It was so cool,” said 11-year-old Isabella Rodriguez, who came from Calexico to enjoy the event.
The Cattle Call Rodeo his been a Brawley tradition since 1957, when Brawley’s Chamber of Commerce decided to host the first rodeo in celebration of the cattle industry. This was Brawley’s first official city celebration, being held on Brawley’s football field the first year before the Cattle Call Arena was developed.
“This is my first Cattle Call, and I’ve lived most of my life here,” said Yolanda Cataño with a bright smile, before taking her seat stands to cheer on the rodeo riders. “This is my first time being here, so I’m excited.”
(This story was updated on Tuesday, Nov. 16, with a link to official results from the rodeo.)