The California Rodeo Salinas 100th Anniversary

World Champion Team Roper and ProRodeo Hall of Famer Jim Rodriguez Jr. won the team roping at Salinas four times with Gene Rambo, the calf roping in 1968, and the all-around five times; he tied with Rambo for the all-around in 1958 and ’60, and won it outright in 1962, ’68 and ’71. “This is a great honor,” Rodriguez Jr. said. “Gene was the first guy to give me the chance to rope at that level, and was the greatest all-around hand. My dad was always behind me. He called in all the ropers at Salinas all those years, for decades and decades. It’s a great honor to be inducted with both of them.”

Jim Rodriguez Sr. was the man with the mike behind the Salinas timed-event chutes for decades. During slack and performances, he walked a wooden plank in front of great big wooden boards that listed all the calf ropers, bulldoggers and team ropers, and Rodriguez Sr. kept them all lined out, lined up and ready to rope. There were no pauses in the action on his watch.

ProRodeo Hall of Fame all-around great Gene Rambo was a cowboy legend from coast to coast in his colorful career. In Salinas, the late Rambo won the team roping with Marion Vincent in 1948, then four times with Rodriguez Jr. He also won the Salinas steer wrestling crown in 1949, and five times was named the California Rodeo all-around champ, in 1948, ’49 and ’57 before tying for the title with Rodriguez in 1958 and ’60. My dad absolutely adored Gene Rambo. His daughter, Cheryl Gay, is a dear friend to three generations of my family to this day.

Late, great horseman Greg Ward was a National Reined Cow Horse Hall of Famer who won several Snaffle Bit Futurities, the All-Around Cow Horse competition back when they had it, and countless hackamore and bridle classes. Ward had a legendary success rate showing horses at Salinas over the years. My dad first met Greg at Cal Poly’s spring classic college rodeo, Poly Royal, in 1957. Greg was on Cal Poly’s rodeo team; my dad was rodeoing for Davis while getting his veterinary degree. They rode around together at Salinas, visiting horseback, between rodeo events and horseshow classes for years and years. I also have vivid memories of Greg and his daughter practicing her softball pitching on the grass infield over by where all the cowboys park at the California Rodeo. Those two were tight, and it was pretty cute to see a gruff old cowboy crouching down in his spurs to play catcher for his little girl.

First-ever California Rodeo President Arthur Hebbron served in that seat for 22 years, from 1913 to 1934 until his death, and was one of the founders of the original event in 1911. His presidency is still the longest on record in Salinas.

Late announcer Abe Lefton called the action at the California Rodeo in Salinas from 1928 through 1951. By all accounts, he worked rodeos across the country, but none was more dear to Lefton than Salinas.

ProRodeo Hall of Fame bulldogger Jack Roddy won the California Rodeo steer wrestling title three times in 1962, ’64 and ’66. He and my dad won the Salinas Gold Card team roping buckles in 2003. Like Rambo and Rodriguez, Roddy lived close enough to Salinas to be considered a local favorite by fans.

Horsewoman and area rancher Lola Galli was a tradition at the California Rodeo for half a century. As a young woman, she competed against the men in the horseshow events over on the track and held her own, then worked behind the scenes moving cattle to help the committee after her competitive days were done. Galli was a true cowgirl, and did it all with a traditional spade bit. Like Ward, Galli is a National Reined Cow Horse Hall of Fame inductee.

Myron “Doc” Etienne served as president of the California Rodeo from 1968-70, and has served on the committee in various capacities since 1952. He has dedicated many years of his life working hard on livestock welfare issues, serving as longtime chairman of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s Humane Advisory Committee. Etienne is a ProRodeo Hall of Fame notable.

Ki Silacci dedicated half a century of his life to the California Rodeo, wearing the hats of contestant, stock provider, grounds and facility maintenance man, and policy maker, among others. Silacci was involved in California Rodeo arena operations from 1928 through 1976, became a California Rodeo Director in 1931, and in 1932 became the arena director, a post he held until 1968. Silacci continued to work with and help the arena committee through 1976, before he died that September.

Pat Adcock Garlinger served as the 1940 California Rodeo Hostess. That’s how she met her husband, the late Del Garlinger, who became president of the rodeo in 1966.

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