Valeria Howard-Vason, President and Promoter
The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo was created and managed by a promoter who established himself as an innovative leader in special events marketing. Lu Vason, grew up in Berkeley, California and moved to Denver in 1977. He had over 50 years’ experience as a producer, media impresario and marketing consultant. He was a trend setter and creative spirit.
Valeria Howard-Vason serves as the current president of the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo and Lu Vason Presents. Valeria met Lu Vason in 1984 and immediately observed his passion and vision concerning the rodeo. She embraced his dream and was always by his side to assist him in any way possible and to help develop a new strategic direction for BPIR.
Valeria says ‘the rodeo has such rich history, legacy and importance to the community’ that she has made a personal commitment to continue her husband’s legacy. She has stepped into his shoes to continue his vision by promoting a first class African American rodeo tour that travels to entertain and education fans across the United States. Despite the loss of her husband in 2015, Valeria directed and guided BPIR to a very successful year with sellout crowds in each market,
In addition to providing the leadership for the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo and Lu Vason’s Presents, she also works very closely with the chair person for the Bill Pickett Memorial Scholarship fund to assure the community involvement remains viable. Valeria also maintains her personal career in the insurance industry as Vice President of Commercial’s Lines Operations for the USI Insurance Mountain Region operation. In additional, she also finds time to give back to the community with her volunteer efforts. She loves life and what she does and believes that God does not put on you more than what he has prepared you to handle.
Lu Vason Visionary and Founder
The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo was created and managed by a promoter who established himself as an innovative leader in special events marketing. Lu Vason, grew up in Berkeley, California and moved to Denver in 1977. He had over 50 years’ experience as a producer, media impresario and marketing consultant. He was a trend setter and creative spirit.Vason was credited with creating the Pointers Sisters and managing various other artist. He formed Aries Concerts and the Jazz Lives Series promoting various concerts and concert tours.
In 1977, during Wyoming's Cheyenne Frontier Days, Vason's interest turned toward rodeo. His curiosity was aroused when he noted that there were no Black cowboys participating that day. He was curious as to whether people were aware of the role the Black cowboy had played in this country's history? Lu Vason was convinced that the time had come to uncover the cultural past of the Black cowboy. In 1984, he created an all-Black rodeo named after the legendary Black cowboy, Bill Pickett, who originated "bulldogging". Some 32 years later the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo is now a popular series, which reaches over 130,000 spectators annually across the United States..INSPIRATION
Lu Vason, founder of the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, challenged the false perception of an absentee presence of Blacks in the development of the West, while molding his touring rodeo into a success. The Black rodeo has been a powerful tool in his goals of educating people on the Black West as well as building a profitable business.
The first Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, held in 1984 in Denver. Colorado was an inspiration Vason had after visiting the Cheyenne Frontier Days, the grand-daddy of Rodeos, in Wyoming, "my experience was exciting but lacked one thing. according to Vason; Black cowboys." While in Denver he visited the Black American West Museum of History where he was introduced to the History of Bill Pickett.
"People knew the name Will Rogers said Vason. "But who they hadn't heard of was Bill Pickett and if they had, they didn't know he was Black."Bill Pickett, born in 1870 in Texas, created *'bulldogging," a move in which he rode alongside a steer, jumped onto its shoulders and brought the steer down by digging his feet into the ground. The modern day version of the move is called steer wrestling and remains one the most intriguing exhibitions throughout rodeo history.
The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo was Vason’s passion. Concerts only have financial rewards" said Vason. "The Rodeo is educational; I'm trying to promote the culture of the Black west. A lot of people can't relate to the pyramids in Africa, adds Vason who was born in New Orleans and raised in Berkeley. "I believe a lot of us can better relate to Black Americans who were a part of developing this country."
Through his impressive career as a producer, he made it possible for many to have access to a piece of denied history. Still today, children and adults can travel a short distance by bus, car or maybe even horse, to a place where the dust from the bull pen, the fearless strength of Black cowboys and the audacious displays of bulldogging is as authentic now as they were over a hundred years, ago. The legacy of Lu Vason lives on as the Bill Pickett Invitational rodeo enters into its 32nd year.