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Toyota and Ariat Partner with Nation’s Only African American Touring Rodeo Celebrating 35 Years of Legacy- The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo Going Places in San Francisco Bay Area, CA.

To the delight of thrilled audiences and rodeo fans, some of the nation’s most skilled and entertaining African American cowboys and cowgirls will ride into the San Francisco Bay Area to compete in the nation’s longest running touring Black rodeo competition—the thrilling Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo (BPIR).

Celebrating its 35th year, BPIR will proudly showcase its athletes performing and competing in Castro Valley, California’s Rowell Ranch Rodeo Arena (9711 Dublin Canyon Rd., Castro Valley, CA 94552) on Saturday, July 13, 2019 | 2:30 pm and Sunday, July 14, 2019 | 2:30 pm.

Hard riding competitors will choke dust as fans and novice spectators cheer for their favorite competitors as they battle to be named the best in the Bay Area. Contest performances include thrilling Calf Ropin’, exhilarating Bareback Ridin’, Bull Doggin, Ladies Barrel Racin’, Junior Barrel Racin’, Ladies Steer Undercoatin’, and gripping Bull Ridin.’

Under the guidance of Jeff Douvel (Bay Area Coordinator) and Sheri Vason (Bay Area Coordinator) BPIR has curated sold out shows with repeat generation-after-generation attendees and rodeo competitors coming back year-after-year.

Jeff Douvel, Bay Area Coordinator, stated, "I watch as each event unfolds realizing that every event could cost a participant their life or a limb in a matter of seconds. Competitor's performances cannot be scripted or faked. They are hard-working athletes for whom I have great respect." He continued, "Most people do not realize that most of the time it's a cowboy or cowgirl that receives injuries, not one of the animals. All of the rough stock are well treated. Most people would be surprised to learn the rodeo stock often have more medical staff on the scene than do the competitors."

Sheri Vason adds: "I am both pleased and proud that the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo continues to be an annual must-attend event for thousands of fans throughout the country. The BPIR family is happy to educate and entertain devoted fans and new-comers who attend the exciting family-friendly event. It's no accident that our rodeo is called "The Greatest Show on Dirt!"

In 1984, Lu Vason had a vision to entertain audiences and create and preserve the history and contributions of African American cowboys and cowgirls. The result, The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo (BPIR) titled “The Greatest Show on Dirt”.  At that time, Vason had no idea that the rodeo would be in existence today, celebrating its 35th anniversary.  Valeria Howard Cunningham, Lu’s then wife assumed the ownership and leadership of the BPIR when his health declined in 2010. Under her leadership, the rodeo continues to thrive and grow. Valeria; a black woman has succeeded in the rodeo industry, a white male dominated industry as being the only woman to own a national touring rodeo company. BPIR, the only African American touring rodeo in the country continues in its mission of telling the stories of Black Cowboys and Cowgirls across the US, while entertaining audiences and offering the community a clean, family friendly and fun event. 

Vason named The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo after the legendary William “Bill’ Pickett; an African American and Cherokee cowboy, a Wild West Show performer and actor whom was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame to continue his legacy and educate society about who he was and his contributions to society.

Although there are thousands of African American cowboys who helped to shape the history of America’s West, there is no greater documented legend than Bill Pickett. Bill Pickett was born in 1870, five years after the Civil War ended. Observing the relationship between cattle and the bulldogs used to control them, Pickett used the bulldog’s skills as a human, and he titled the skill “Bull Doggin”.Mastering this exceptional talent of “Bull Doggin” which includes, grabbing a steer by the horns, biting their upper lip, and wrestling them to the ground.  He was known by the nicknames “The Dusty Deamon” and “The Bull Dogger.”

Bill’s career spanned over 40 years as a professional cowboy and rodeo champion. Bill Pickett became the first black cowboy movie star performing all over the world including the British Royal Family. Lu Vason achieved his mission of continuing the history and the legacy through The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo. 

The Bill Pickett Rodeo has blossomed into a phenomenal show bringing total family joy to sell-out crowds across America. Current tour/show sites include Denver, CO., Memphis, TN., Oakland, CA., Los Angeles, CA., Atlanta, GA., Washington, DC.  An added addition to the BPIR Rodeo is the Rodeo For Kidz Sake (RFKS) that educates and entertain thousands of school aged children exposing them to animals, cowboys and cowgirls. The RFKS experience teaches the kids about the importance of Black Americans in the development of the West and confirm that there are Black cowboys and cowgirls, which is something missing from the history books, television and movie screens.

The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo is proud to mention National Sponsors Toyota,Ariat, Upscale Magazineand Bronner Brothers.

“Toyota celebrates the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo for its contributions to highlighting the history of African American's in the West and for educating Americans about the true diversity of the American West," Alva Adams-Mason, Director, Multicultural Business Alliance and Strategy & Senior Manager, Dealers Relations.

“Ariat is proud to partner with an organization that enables men and women to be competitive and pursue their passion for rodeo,”  said Susan Alcala, Vice President, Partnership Marketing at Ariat. We have so much respect for the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo and are honored to be able to do even more as we expand our support this year.”

Safewayhas been the Title Sponsorfor the Bay Area Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeofor over 15 years.

“Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of Safeway, Jonathan Mayes, Jo Leigh Dobbs and Teena Massingill have truly supported the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo. We thank them for their continued partnership and support over the years!” states Sheri Vason.

Ticket prices range from $19 to $35 and can be purchased online or at various business outlets (see below). Vendor opportunities are available as well as national and local sponsors whom seek to align their brands with a whole hearty family legacy.  In addition, media affiliates are sought.

For local contact info and opportunities, or group ticket sales please call Sheri Vason at 925-230-8082 or email svason@billpickettrodeo.com.

For Media Partners/credentials please email: press@billpickettrodeo.com

Please visit www.billpickettrodeo.com for more information or call 303-373-1246. 


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  • Center Stage West • Oakland • 510-465-9552
  • Rowell Saddlery • Castro Valley • 510-581-2577
  • K&K Beauty Supply • Antioch • 925-206-4343
  • Reid's Records • Berkeley • 510-843-7282
  • The Cobblers • Hayward • 510-582-7761
  • Mississippi Catfish • Richmond • 510-215-2526
  • Cassandra's Wedding Cakes • Richmond • 510-232-4616
  • Everett & Jones • Berkeley • 510-548-8261


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