The Grand National Rodeo is coming to town. For two weekends in a row, the Cow Palace will live up to its name, hosting the event for which it was originally built.
The rodeo is actually five events in one, event organizer Seth Doulton said. In addition to the various rodeo competitions, he said, there will also be a livestock show, horse show, Western barbecue and Western trade show at the Daly City venue.
Doulton said the Grand National Rodeo is the only event at the venue produced by the Cow Palace itself. The Daly City landmark was built to host the first Grand National Rodeo in 1941, he said, but the next one didn’t happen until 1946 because the Cow Palace was used as a staging area for troops during World War II.
Doulton, a former rodeo clown, has been with the Cow Palace since 1970. He said the Grand National was created to educate the public about the cattle industry and its people, and it hasn’t deviated from that purpose.
“Our mission is to try to teach Bay Area children and adults where their food comes from,” Doulton said. “We’re passing on to the younger generation the Western lifestyle.”
Doulton said that unlike most industries, ranching hasn’t changed much over the past century.
“You can’t rope a steer from a tractor. Farming’s come a long way in a hundred years, but cowboy life hasn’t changed. There’s no better way to make a rope or a saddle,” he said.
Doulton said people who are concerned about animal welfare should understand rodeo animals are treasured by their owners and treated like star athletes.
Horses buck naturally, Doulton said, adding that the ones used in events such as bareback and saddle bronc riding aren’t coerced or antagonized. The animals are bred and selected for their desire to throw riders, he said.
Human welfare is another matter. Doulton acknowledged that the cowboys competing for the rodeo’s $60,000 purse take punishing blows, risk injury and face terrifying challenges. A steer wrestler, for example, has to jump off a horse going 35 mph, grab a steer by its horns and wrestle it to the ground.
Reno Rosser, who is in charge of the rodeo portion of the event, is a former bullfighter.
Rosser said an American bullfighter is nothing like a matador, who injures or kills bulls. He said a rodeo bullfighter’s job is to protect the bull rider by offering himself as a target for the charging bull.
Like Doulton, Rosser sees the rodeo as a form of outreach, bridging the gap between urban consumers and the people who produce the food they eat.
Third-generation cattleman Geoff Gates, who oversees the event’s livestock shows, echoed that sentiment.
“It’s an opportunity for the general public to come and see how we treat our animals and learn why we treat them the way we do,” Gates said.
The all-day events will be held this Friday and Saturday and Oct. 25 and Oct. 26. Livestock judging begins at 8 a.m. Friday, and the rodeo competitions begin at 7:30 p.m. each day.
If you go:
Grand National Rodeo
Where: Cow Palace, 2600 Geneva Ave., Daly City
When: Friday and Saturday, Oct. 25 and Oct. 26