The Poway Rodeo is celebrating its 50th anniversary with arena contests, games and country dancing

The Poway Rodeo’s 50th anniversary event will entertain crowds with new and traditional activities on Friday, Sept. 22, and Saturday, Sept. 23, organizers said.

The return of Western-style competitions will include bull riding, team roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, roping and barrel racing.

One of the favorite women’s sports this year is break roping, where riders throw a rope around their calf and once caught, the rope breaks, signaling the end of the run and stopping the clock, said Darcy Van Meter, of the arena. Director of Poway Rodeo.

“Some pros do it in less than a few seconds,” Van Meter said. “They call it the fastest sport on dirt.”

Poway Rodeo competitions will include bull riding, team roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, breakaway roping, and barrel racing.

(Reed Settle/PRCA Photographer)

New this year will be performances by the Riata Ranch Cowboy Girls, a group of trick riders who travel the country.

Over the past 50 years, the Poway Rodeo has evolved from a small, informal rodeo into a more elaborate event that still features traditional rodeos and cowgirls.

Sherri Sheldon Gibson, secretary of the Professional Cowboys Association, recalled participating in the roping team in the late 1970s and running barrels in the early 1980s at the Poway Rodeo. At that time, contestants signed up to participate in rodeos at her mother’s western store in Poway called Charlie’s Tuck.

Poway Rodeo was founded by Jack Miller and John Walker, who have since died, Sheldon Gibson said. She said the rodeo always attracts high-end contestants who saw it as a last chance to earn enough points during the rodeo season to enter the National Finals Rodeo held in December.

“Rodeo is a lot more production now than it ever was when I was a kid,” said Sheldon Gibson, who is also president of the Poway Polo Club. “We now have a beautiful hospitality tent where racers can sit and watch the rodeo on TV through the scoreboard. They can sit with their families and have a meal.”

The Poway Valley Riders Association’s rodeo grounds have expanded from one to three yards over the years and the neighborhood has been developed with homes, but in many ways the rodeo has remained the same, said Nancy Kirchhofer, treasurer of the Poway Rodeo Commission.

Kirchhofer said she joined Poway Valley Riders Association in 1984 to become part of the drill team that made the grand entrance to the rodeo by waving large flags on horseback at the Poway Rodeo.

“I did this for 15 years,” she said. “I loved it. It was great. The horses are amazing and you make really good friends. If you’re competitive and do something that has serious potential, you get closer to all the ladies you ride with. It’s like family.”

The formerly small rodeo has become a big attraction, drawing 4,000 people to the Friday and Saturday night shows, she said.

“We have small barrels and lamb that are always filled right away,” Kirchhofer said. “Interest among young people is still very good and has probably grown a little.”

The cowboys and cowboys competing in the 50th anniversary event will travel from far and wide, as will the audience. Some will venture from coastal communities, Riverside County and all the way from Europe, said Murray Bankhead, president of the Poway Rodeo Company.

Shows will be held at the Poway Valley Riders Association arena, 14336 Tierra Bonita Road off Twin Peaks Road.

The rodeo will begin at 7:30 PM on Friday. The theme of the evening will be “Feast Night” to celebrate Western rodeo’s connection to its Spanish heritage, Bankhead said.

“Rodeo started with the Spanish in America and has become part of our Western heritage, so there is a shared history,” he said. “More than half of the terms used in rodeo are Hispanic.”

The post-rodeo dance will be free for patrons 21 and older on the rodeo grounds after the Friday and Saturday evening rodeo. The Patrick Howard Trampus Band will play a variety of music, including country western and rock and roll.

A separate Friday activity will be a Slack starting at 10 a.m. where a large number of riders not participating in the regular shows can participate in team roping, barrel racing and other rodeo activities in the same rodeo arena at Tierra Bonita. Slack is free to the public.

On Saturday at 10 a.m., the Sam’s Posse Round-up Rodeo will be held for participants ages 5 and up with intellectual and physical disabilities to experience a modified rodeo in a safe and inclusive environment. Van Meter said the cowboys and cowboys will help kids experience rodeo events such as stick horse racing and plastic horse riding.

Sam’s Posse is a local non-profit organization with a mission to create inclusive activities and play spaces for individuals of all abilities.

The Sam's Posse Round-up Rodeo gives people with mental and physical disabilities a chance to experience a modified rodeo.

On Saturday, the Sam’s Posse Round-up Rodeo will give those ages 5 and up with mental and physical disabilities the opportunity to experience a modified rodeo. From left, volunteer Clayton Teller, Jacob; Buck Burt, founder of Sam’s Posse; and former Poway Rodeo volunteer Tom Drew.

(Criselda Yee)

Rodeo shows are held on Saturdays at 1pm and 7:30pm. Afternoon activities will include an inflatable house, face painting and games for children. Rodeo admission for kids is $1 for the 1 p.m. show, and kid-friendly activities will cost $1 each.

Children will be able to participate in Poway Rodeo activities such as mutton busting.

Children will be able to participate in Poway Rodeo activities such as mutton busting.

(Reed Settle/PRCA Photographer)

Rodeo contestants will compete for a share of the $45,000 total prize money. They will also try to earn enough points to enter the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in December.

A special Poway Rodeo 50th Anniversary clip is available for purchase online at Buckles are $150 each.

Tickets can be purchased online only at with general admission, preferred and VIP seating available. VIP seats include food and drinks in the ticket price.

Some of the money raised is used for donations within the community, Bankhead said.

“The all-volunteer Poway Rodeo not only organizes and puts on these nationally recognized, PRCA-sanctioned rodeos, but gives back to the community,” he said. “We donate tickets and tens of thousands of dollars to many organizations.”

Last year, the Poway Rodeo raised money to buy a custom-built bike for a local child with special needs, he said.

Additionally, the Poway Rodeo has joined other rodeos in support of the Golden Circle of Champions, which raises money for childhood cancer research. Poway Rodeo also sends a family with a child suffering from cancer to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas where they meet and spend time with top cowboys and cowgirls.

“We’re looking to do even more this year,” Bankhead said.

The Poway Rodeo will take place at 7:30pm on Friday, September 22nd, and at 1pm and 7pm on Saturday, September 23rd.

The Poway Rodeo will take place at 7:30pm on Friday, September 22nd, and at 1pm and 7pm on Saturday, September 23rd.

(Reed Settle/PRCA Photographer)

Sponsors include presenting sponsor, Pedder Chrysler Dodge Ram Jeep of Poway; Gold Community Sponsor is Walmart; The gold sponsor is Monster Energy Drinks.

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