Annual BPIR brings history and horses to Los Angeles
Over the weekend, African American Cowboys, Cowgirls, and spectators alike flocked to the Industry Hills Expo Center for the 2008 Annual Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo (BPIR). Attendees of all ages watched in awe as the cowgirls and cowboys entertained them at both shows, held July 19th and 20th, with stunning tricks, horse ridding, and a petting zoo. Vendors provided Western inspired clothing apparel and feasts for guests ranging from fried fishplates to large bags of kettle corn.
Famed horsewoman April Weeden-Washington, Pastor Andraé Crouch, and actors Glynn Plummer and Richard Gant rode in the special Grand Entry Parade. Glynn Turman, famous actor and longtime supporter of the BPIR served as Grand Marshall while Grey’s Anatomy star Jim Pickens and NAACP Award winner Blair Underwood served as Honorary Grand Marshals for the festivities. Renowned singer/songwriter Stevie Wonder also made an appearance, vowing to ride a horse during next year’s rodeo.
“It was an awesome experience for me,” said first-time attendee Belinda Crawford. “My friends took me for my birthday and we had a great time. The show, the celebrities, the venue, and the food-it was great!”
Although the venue changed for the first time in twenty years, that did not hinder the success of this wonderful event. “Its always difficult, whenever change is involved, but people came and they loved it! We had a lot of new people come and our [longtime] supporters also stood by us,” said Los Angeles Coordinator Margo LaDrew. She went on to say, “African American kids need to know this history. We were apart of settling the West!”
Twenty-four years since its inception, BPIR continues to showcase some of the most talented African American Cowboys and Cowgirls our nation has to offer. While it is downplayed in Hollywood’s account of the “way the West was won”, we played an integral role in the formation of the American West. In the early 1500s, Black explorer Estavanico journeyed through Texas and it is said that an African slave was the lead scout with the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1804.
Ly Vason, founder and producer of this prestigious and the only Black National Touring Rodeo, created BPIR to educate people on the Black Western experiences and the contributions that African Americans made. Vason also wanted to instill a sense of pride and history within the African American community because of the little, if any, mention of our involvement in the making of the West. BPIR coordinators state that one out of every six cowboys was African American.
The rodeo tours from February through November annually across the United States. It is a sport that challenges all aspects of mental, emotional, and physical strength. The BPIR displays the select few who have mastered the skills needed to compete and are the best at what they do.
The finals are held annually on November 21st and 22nd at the South Point Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. For tickets or more information, please visit www.billpickettrodeo.com.