Fortuna Rodeo!

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HISTORY OF THE
REDWOOD FORTUNA RODEO

Many years ago a great tradition began in Fortuna; the Redwood Fortuna Rodeo. Humboldt County has been an agricultural center for California, as its first settlers were ranchers. It's a little wonder that Fortuna lays claim to the oldest and longest running annual rodeo on the North Coast. The rodeo has a long-standing history of attracting some of the top livestock and rodeo cowboys on the West Coast.

Fortuna Rodeo had its beginnings way back in 1921 when the Humboldt County Cattlemen's Association planned a big all-day picnic. "Rodeo Stunts" were to be featured after the big barbecue with a dance that evening. Nearly 3,000 people attended this event which proved to be the beginning of the Fortuna Rodeo.

Five years later, in 1926, it turned into a rip-roaring three-day celebration, filled with thrills and excitement. In 1930 there were more changes. The committee decided to use riders from Humboldt, Del Norte, Trinity and Mendocino counties instead of professional riders. By 1939, the rodeo had simmered down to a two-day event, but packed with just as much dynamite as the longer celebrations had been because the citizens continued to make everyday preceding it a build up for the real thing.

About 10,000 people attended the show in 1939 and though the new grandstand was not yet completed the show was bigger and better than ever. By 1941, the Fortuna Rodeo was known far and wide as one of the biggest attractions on the Western Circuit.

The blight of the war fell in 1941, and with it fell the Fortuna Rodeo for the next five years. But in 1946 it rose again to newer and greater proportions. Bill Clark rode in the 1946 rodeo at the age of 80. In 1948 Stella James of Willits was chosen as the Rodeo Queen, with Pat Barnwell of Bridgeville and Naomi Pries of Ferndale as her attendants. The 1948 rodeo events grew to include a parade downtown, penny scramble, street dancing and vigilantes jailing local men who chose not to grow a beard for the event. The tradition continues today in Fortuna, every third weekend in July.