The Bill Pickett Rodeo supports education and awareness for youth in various ways. (Photos Courtesy:

Come see Black cowboys and cowgirls ride horses, rope cattle and more!

The Bill Pickett Rodeo will be celebrating 33 Years of being the “Greatest Show on Dirt” on July 15 and 16 at Industry Hills Expo Center. Black cowboys and cowgirls will compete in a variety of events which include Calf Ropin’, Bareback Ridin’, Bull Doggin, Ladies Barrel Racin’, Junior Barrel Racin’, Ladies Steer Undecoratin’, and gripping Bull Ridin.’

For 33 years, the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo has highlighted Black cowboys and cowgirls. The rodeo was the brainchild of Lucious “Lu” Augustus Vason after he attended the Cheyenne Frontier Days, the Granddaddy of Rodeos. Vason thought the rodeo was entertaining but lacked Black cowgirls and cowboys.

From Wyoming to Texas, Black cowboys were known for their ability to ride horses, specifically the roughest broncos that White cowboys would not touch. As a result, Wild West rodeos would cast Black cowboys. As the sport began to pick up steam and audiences grew, organized rodeo associations were formed.

In 1947, a group of wealthy Black businessmen, along with prominent East Texas ranchers, and a handful of Black cowboys, the Negro Cowboy’s Rodeo Association was formed. It was the country’s first and only organized Black Cowboy association and has produced its own rodeos across the West.

The association would eventually dissolve and today’s Black cowboys are scattered across the United States with Texas being the hub for Black cowboys and cowgirls. However, on any given weekend from February to November, within a 60-mile radius of Houston, three to five rodeos are sponsored by one of six predominately Black cowboy rodeo associations. Although they are integrated, membership remains 80 to 90 percent Black.

Black cowgirls get in on the action! (Photos Courtesy:

In 1984, Vason created the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, the only African American touring rodeo in the United States and throughout the world. Over the years, the event has traveled to more than 33 cities across the United States. Vason passed away in 2015 and his wife, Valeria Howard-Vason, is carrying on the rodeo and Vason’s legacy as its current president and producer.

“My husband was a genius when he created this,” stated Howard-Vason. “The rodeo was instrumental to the community and to young African Americans.

“I feel blessed to continue his legacy. My husband was committed to telling the story of Blacks in the West and our rich contributions to rodeo while creating a platform and legacy that will thrive as we move forward.”

The Bill Pickett Rodeo supports education and awareness for youth in various ways including the Bill Pickett Memorial Scholarship Fund, a non-profit that provides scholarships to Black high school and college students involved or interested in pursuing careers in rodeo or animal science. The scholarship is awarded based on academic standing, student need, determination, community involvement and professional recommendations.

Tickets range from $20-$40 and group rates are available. Ticket outlets include: Young Visionaries Youth Leadership Academy, San Bernardino, 909.723.1695; Wade Events, Inglewood, 310.674.6700; Inglewood Tickets, Inglewood, 310.671.6400; Black Voice News, Riverside, 951.682.6070; Zahra’s Books & Things, Inglewood, 310.330.1300; Industry Hills Expo Center, City of Industry, 626.330.0324; Shades of Afrika, Long Beach, 562.4362210; Shades of Afrika, Corona, 951.285.7888; Ms. B’s M&M Soul Food, Inglewood, 310-412-2800; Venni Mac’s M&M Soul Food, Carson, 310.324.5317; Postal Annex, Carson, 310.538.8285.

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Prize winners! (Photos Courtesy: