Traditions run deep and cowboys stand tall in Red Bluff, which is proudly celebrating 91 years of rodeo this month.
Everyone's a cowboy or cowgirl during the Red Bluff Round-Up, and a dedicated board of directors, generous local businesses and legions of dedicated rodeo fans have made the iconic Round-Up one of the area's premier events. This year's events kick off on April 14, with the rodeo starting April 21.
"It's probably the biggest event in Northern California, with about 28,000 people coming to town over a week," said Dave Ramelli, president of the Red Bluff Round-Up Association. "The impact on our community is just tremendous."
The Red Bluff Round-Up has always been powered entirely by volunteers. They're steered by a board of directors - many of whom are carrying on a family tradition of service. These folks continue to ensure that each year's Round-Up remains the vibrant, exciting event that has earned hat-tips from many of the nation's most renowned cowboys for decades.
"If you look at any major corporation with a half-million or million-dollar budget, how many can you say are run truly on volunteer help? Our 18 directors make it happen. Fathers and grandfathers are part of the Round-Up and have carried on the tradition of volunteering," said Ramelli, who has been on the board since 1988, and whose father was a volunteer in the 1950s.
The first Round-Up was the creation of the Northern California Round-Up Association, formed in 1920 on the heels of several successful roping and riding events in Tehama County. A rodeo was held during the Tehama County Fair the following October, and thousands of guests cheered on contestants in 17 events.
The event was sidelined for a couple of years, until it was reorganized by the Red Bluff Round-Up Association in 1926. Traveling advertising man "Montana Red" spread the word and drew more than 10,000 spectators to the event. For the next four decades, a publicity caravan of 50 cars would wind its way through the North State, spreading the word about the big event by megaphone.
The Depression and World War II cancelled five rodeos over the years, but every other year it has drawn faithful crowds - including many of the descendants of those who celebrated the Round-Up in its infancy.
Make no mistake - the Round-Up is a major Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rodeo, and its springtime dates make it ideal for securing top stock contractors and world-class contestants looking to accumulate season points.
But for those who live in the north state, it's also a beloved community event that has steadily expanded to include a litany of family-friendly events. The Red Bluff-Tehama County Chamber of Commerce kicks off the festivities in downtown Red Bluff, and the week's activities include a chili cook-off, live entertainment, pony rides, a car show, cowboy poetry, a pancake breakfast, a parade and more. A highlight this year will be a concert by multi-platinum recording artist Tracy Lawrence on April 21.
Looking to learn more about the Round-Up? Look no further than the Red Bluff Round-Up Museum at 670 Antelope Blvd. in Red Bluff. It's open from 1 to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and admission is free. Its photo collection dates all the way back to 1918; interactive displays are in the works. True to form, the museum's creation was the result of the hard work of volunteers and local businesses.
Never been to the Round-Up? The friendly folks in Tehama County assure you that it's well worth the short drive. So grab your cowboy hat and let the Round-Up volunteers wrap you up in their community spirit.
"A lot of people come to town and make it their family reunion time," Ramelli said. "It's truly rewarding to see people come from all over the Western United States and have a great time."