Behind the Scenes of Redding Rodeo
As we see rodeos start to come back to life this summer, we wanted to highlight a rodeo that is at the forefront of that, Redding Rodeo, which recently opened up to full capacity seating. With that being said, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes in order to pull off an event that you thought was not going to be a thing this year so we were pretty excited to sit down with some of the folks that make it possible.
First, we would like to introduce to you to a gentleman that has put blood, sweat, and probably tears into Redding Rodeo, President, Bennet Gooch. Bennet has been President for about three years, he mentioned during the interview that this year will be his first normal year as president, as last year was unfortunately canceled, and the year before that it was a rainout so he is excited to perform this role this year to its fullest. To start the interview off, I wanted to ask what one of Bennet’s favorite parts of the event are, and here is his response,
I was the rodeo chairman for 17 years before being president, so my favorite part is to see the dynamic in the fans change and to learn about what the fans want to see. Over the years, we’ve been able to fine-tune the length and quality of the show, change what’s included, and then see if the fans pay attention or not. I also enjoy going around town, especially being around people who don’t recognize me, and hearing how much the community is looking forward to the event, especially after taking a year off, and seeing the outpouring of support has been amazing.
Bennet has been involved with the Redding Rodeo for about 26 or 27 years and in that time, he has served in just about every position within the committee. Which he feels is critical in the role as President because as you lead a committee, you should know each position inside and out. As we discussed the nuances of being involved with a rodeo committee, I asked him what makes Redding Rodeo so special, as if he was describing it to someone and this is what he said,
We are a relatively small community but one of the largest rodeos in the country. The quality of contestants and livestock that we have to present to people in conjunction with the environment of a small arena makes Redding special. Most arenas have a racetrack in combination with the arena so the grandstands are typically further away from the action, whereas our grandstands are right over the arena. There isn’t a bad seat in the house, more times than not you will get a cowboy bucked off right into the stands, you can feel the wind of the livestock as they rush past you and that’s what people look most forward to is being that close to the action.
Towards the end of the interview, I asked him about what his favorite memory of working the rodeo is, and he replied,
The last Champions Challenge that we put on is one of my favorite memories. I don’t know what it was about that year, but everything clicked and the contestants were outperforming each other. It was like every time we turned around, another record was broken. Everything just worked that year and it was a great way to wrap up the end of that event. Another good memory was when we were inducted into the hall of fame in 2016.
To wrap us up, I wanted to gain any last insight Bennet might have on his thoughts on Redding Rodeo, and his response was a perfect way to end the interview, check it out,
The biggest thing I’ve realized is to always keep learning, never leave things alone and continue to look for ways to make it better for the show, the contestants and the fans. I don’t tweak it a lot because if you move things around too much, you won’t know what worked and what didn’t but if you move little things here and there you can learn from them and keep making it better.
The next gentleman that we were able to snag a conversation with is Jeff Schuler, who is the Top Puncher of the Asphalt Cowboys, an organization that plays a crucial part during rodeo week in Redding. The Asphalt Cowboys stated mission is:
“To aid and assist, in any way deemed lawful, in helping the Redding Rodeo Association in the promotion of the Redding Rodeo.”
Local Redding cowboys began this association in 1953 to help prepare the Top Hand Dinner, the Rodeo Parade, and organize and run other Rodeo Week activities. Another key role that this organization plays is the famed “Pancake Breakfast” which is always held on the Friday of rodeo weekend. The tradition started in 1954, as one of the Rodeo Week activities and the first breakfast served about 700 people compared to the near 10,000 people they serve today. This year’s event will be held on May 14 at the Redding Civic Center from 5am-10am and pancakes are only $5!
Jeff has been involved with the Asphalt Cowboy since 2012 but has been attending the rodeo itself since he was a kid. When I asked him what his favorite part of the rodeo is, his response was,
My favorite part of the event is our signature pancake breakfast, where we are able to serve up about 10,000 pancakes to locals and rodeo goers who are in town.
Along the same lines, I couldn’t help but ask what Jeff’s favorite memory was working with the Asphalt Cowboys and he recalled,
The year when Red Rock, the bucking bull, was ridden by Lane Frost. It was long before I was a volunteer, but I remember being at the rodeo and seeing that. It was a pretty special event considering the story around it.
The ride that Jeff is referring to was actually the third match-up of Red Rock and Lane Frost during the Challenge of the Champions. This was an event that put together two of the best athletes in rodeo at the time and was recalled as a “publicity match made in heaven”. This specific ride took place on May 20, 1988, and Frost had studied videotapes, consulted with friends, and worked out prior to this event. That day in Redding, California, Frost stayed on until the eight-second mark and this was the first time that anyone had ever stayed on Red Rock for a qualifying ride. Frost went on to explain how he changed his riding position by sitting well over to the right side, thus staying ahead of the bull’s motion. “I know I can’t catch up to him when he goes to the right, I’ve tried.” It’s a day that will go down in Redding Rodeo history for many. To wrap us up from there, I asked if Jeff had any closing thoughts and this is what he wanted to close with,
The biggest difference between the two groups is that we have nothing to do with the production of the rodeo but we have everything to do with getting the community excited about the rodeo and helping draw people there.
I truly hope you enjoyed this Behind the Scenes peek at what goes on behind the scenes of one of America’s favorite rodeos. Don’t forget, Redding Rodeo takes place May 13-15, 2021 and tickets are still available! The committee recently opened up the stands to full capacity and they are looking forward to having everyone in attendance. Make sure to snag your tickets by following the link below!