CEO/President and Promoter
Valeria Howard-Cunningham serves as the CEO/President of the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo (BPIR).
Valeria says ‘the rodeo has a rich history, legacy and importance to the community.’ She has made a commitment to continue her late husband Lu Vason’s legacy. She is passionate about BPIR, works hard to create an enhanced vision and a more detailed strategic direction for the BPIR. Valeria believes that promoting a first class African American rodeo tour remains critical to both the Black Cowboys/Cowgirls and to the communities across the US. She believes it is more important than ever for all of us to set examples, create visions and provide opportunities for kids and young adults to understand the history and purpose of the rodeo.
Valeria knows that no journey can be done alone and feels fortunate to have a very strong business and rodeo team supporting her and the BPIR. These people include Margo Wade Ladrew, Ronnie Cunningham, Jeff Douvel, Kenneth Johnson, Acynthia Villery, Sheri Vason, Carolyn Carter, Sedgwick Haynes, Deon Osborne, Stephanie Haynes and others.
In addition to providing leadership for the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, she works very closely with the chair person for the Bill Pickett Memorial Scholarship fund to assure the community involvement remains viable and the scholarship funds grows to provide financial support to our youth.
In addition to the rodeo, Valeria maintains her 40 year personal career in the insurance industry as Vice President of Commercial’s Lines Operations for the USI Insurance Mountain Region operations. Additionally, she finds time to give back to the community through volunteer efforts. Valeria is a 24-year breast cancer survival and uses the BPIR platform as a reminder to the community the importance of health screening. She greets rodeo attendees at the rodeo. Many thank her for encouraging them to do their health screening and share how the screenings assisted with early detection of cancer for them, it validates her belief , every experience we have in life, if shared, will always help someone else.
Valeria and her husband Ronnie Cunningham have a shared passion for the youth, young adults and their future. They feel it is important to connect and help develop our youth and young adults into successful future leaders. She also finds time to mentor students.
She believes in God, loves family, friends and life. According to Valeria, “Living life to the fullest and treating others as you want them to treat you is a critical part of my foundation”.
Valeria believes God never puts on you more than what he has prepared you to handle, and even when challenges are presented to us, there is always something to learn that will make you stronger and a better person.
Approaching our 34th season, she sees it as a new year of increased opportunities to connect more with our communities. New connections provide opportunities to educate more about the contributions of Black cowboys/cowgirls in the development of the West and showcase the Black cowboys/cowgirls skills and contributions today, as they entertain and touch lives through the rodeo. The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo has traveled to 33 cities and is known as the world's only Touring African American rodeo.
“I am excited about the future and ready for new challenges and opportunities to take the rodeo to the next level and add greater value to our fans."