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Thousands Attend Bill Pickett Rodeo
By Sentinel News Service
Published July 21, 2022

This weekend the 38th Anniversary Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo was hosted on July 16-17, 2022 at the Industry Hills Expo Center in the City of Industry, Calif. after two long years. It was a sold out show both days! The Bill Pickett rodeo began in 1984, when entertainment impresario Lu Vason had a vision to entertain and educate audiences and to create and preserve the historic contributions of African American cowboys and cowgirls. He named the rodeo after legendary Black cowboy, Bill Pickett, and dubbed it “The Greatest Show on Dirt.” (Edward Miller)

Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo (BPIR) and Toyota announced the Toyota BPIR “Greatest Show on Dirt” Traveling Museum. Alongside the BPIR 22 Tour, The Traveling Museum has toured the country to tell the stories of Black Cowboys and Cowgirls who traveled the U.S. with the world’s leading all-Black touring rodeo.

From the 2022 Texas Connection Series, (which is being held at the Historic Stockyard Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas and includes 4 rodeos concluding in August) the Legacy Tour, stops will include Los Angeles, CA; Oakland, Ca; Atlanta, Ga. (August 6-7); and finish up in the Washington, DC/Upper Marlboro area (September 24) for the 2022 Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo Finals.

During the Los Angeles Tour, which was held on July 15th, the communities were invited to join City Councilmen George Dotson and Alex Padilla for the Unveiling of the Toyota BPIR Traveling Museum from noon to 6 PM at Edward Vincent Jr Park (700 Warren Ln, Inglewood, CA 90302). Guests enjoyed games, free food for the kids, giveaways, dancing, food trucks on site, and more.

A contestant competes in ladies barrel racing at the 38th Anniversary Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on July 16-17, 2022 at the Industry Hills Expo Center in the City of Industry, Calif. (Edward Miller)

The Museum – housed within a 48-foot trailer wrapped with a striking landscape of Black rodeo cowboys – featured:

  • Chronological “walk through time” highlights of the 38 years of Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo.
  • BPIR memorabilia including original items from its founder, cowboys, and cowgirls including championship saddles and buckles, rings, watches, jackets, and promotional items (BPIR tickets, programs, instamatic camera, hot sauce, popcorn, ale, T Shirts and many other items)
  • Historical information, retro photos, and video features on Bill Pickett along with other Black Pioneers in the West (e.g., Nat Love, Stagecoach Mary, Bass Reeves).
  • The many faces of BPIR over the years including Black cowboys/cowgirls, entertainers, staff, clowns, and celebrities.

This weekend the 38th Anniversary Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo was hosted on July 16-17, 2022 at the Industry Hills Expo Center in the City of Industry, Calif. after two long years. It was a sold out show both days! The Bill Pickett rodeo began in 1984, when entertainment impresario Lu Vason had a vision to entertain and educate audiences and to create and preserve the historic contributions of African American cowboys and cowgirls. He named the rodeo after legendary Black cowboy, Bill Pickett, and dubbed it “The Greatest Show on Dirt.” (Edward Miller)

The Bill Pickett rodeo began in 1984, when entertainment impresario Lu Vason had a vision to entertain and educate audiences and to create and preserve the historic contributions of African American cowboys and cowgirls. He named the rodeo after legendary Black cowboy, Bill Pickett, and dubbed it “The Greatest Show on Dirt.” At that time, Vason, who passed in 2015, had no idea that the rodeo would still be in existence, celebrating its 38th anniversary this year.

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Under the direction of Vason’s wife, Valeria Howard-Cunningham, the BPIR has blossomed into an event that educates, inspires, and unites, bringing family joy to sell-out crowds in communities across America. The BPIR experience teaches kids and adults about the important contributions of Black Americans in the development of the West.

The BPIR marked a recent milestone in partnering with PBR (Professional Bull Riders), pairing the rodeo with an elite series bull riding that was carried on network television on June 19, 2021 – Juneteenth – becoming the first Black rodeo ever to be broadcast on network TV.

“The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo has created so many wonderful memories over the past 38 years, and when Toyota decided they wanted to share and tell the stories through a traveling museum, I was overwhelmed and filled with great excitement,” said Valeria Howard Cunningham, President, BPIR. “I am so excited to have the opportunity to share memories from the Black Pioneers in the West, who Bill Pickett was, the vision of Lu Vason for BPIR, and the many faces of BPIR.”

“Toyota celebrates the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo for its contributions to highlighting the history of African Americans in the West and ensuring the true diversity of American Western culture. The BPIR exposes, introduces and makes the African-American cowboy culture visible for all Americans, which we are happy to embrace,” said Alva Adams-Mason, Executive Group Manager - Multicultural Business Alliance and Strategy, Toyota.

A team event and a fan favorite, it was a close race at this year’s relay racing at the 38th Anniversary Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo on July 16-17, 2022 at the Industry Hills Expo Center in the City of Industry, Calif.

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