Even though Hawk Vanderlans is only 7 months old, the Ventura County Fair Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association show wasn’t his first rodeo.
Almost completely enveloped by the hands of his 6-foot-5 father, Jack Vanderlan, the baby slept his way through the excitement of the first show of the Ventura County Fair’s annual PRCA rodeo.
Vanderlans, from Temecula, is a cowboy competing in the steer wrestling portion of the professional rodeo.
He said the Ventura County Fair is an unusual venue.
“This is a unique setup. It’s a pretty small arena. There are a lot of variables,” Vanderlans said while wife Tawnie Vanderlans and daughter Lillie Vanderlans, 3, stood nearby watching the team roping.
According to Cindy Rosser, daughter of Flying U Ranch founder and owner Cotton Rosser, 89, setting up for the Ventura shows is a challenge. Flying U Ranch produces the Ventura County Fair professional rodeo.
“They had a concert here last night, so we couldn’t start to set up until 11 p.m. Our guys were done at 4 a.m., and back to finish up at 9:30 a.m.,” Rosser said. “We bring our own arena and two loads — or about 60 animals. It’s tough on the crew, but it’s not anything they can’t handle.”
A good portion of the Rosser family business in Marysville is providing stock for professional rodeos. Rosser said making sure the animals are cared for and comfortable is a top objective. She demonstrated the sheep’s wool flank-straps used for the bucking broncos and the soft cloth bull ropes used by cowboys in bullriding.
During the saddle bronc riding portion of the rodeo, the two saddle-men helped cowboy Reed Neely clear his bucking horse before moving in to calm the animal, which happened as soon as the lamb’s-wool-lined flank-strap around its midsection was released.
The horses and bulls the Rossers raise are bred to buck and don’t require any cruel or inhumane methods to make them perform, Cindy Rosser said. A veterinarian had just cleared all the animals to perform and will continue to examine the animals during the run of the show, she said.
The rodeo parade opened with the procession of performers led by Cotton Rosser, who still rides at the front of the group. The parachutist who normally jumps from a plane into the arena carrying a giant U.S. flag was unable to do so because of the persistent cloud cover and winds. So members of the 4-H and FFA and other young people unfurled the giant flag during the national anthem.
The first event was the Mutton Bustin’ contest where children ages 4-7, weighing no more than 60 pounds, compete to see who can stay on the back of a sheep.
Twins Caesar and Edgar Navarro, 7, said they wait all year for the event, which they have each won. Caesar won in 2016 and Edgar won in 2015 and 2017.
“I like being a superstar. I just grab the fur with my hands and my legs.” Edgar said. For his winning ride Saturday, the small boy clung fast to the back of a sheep even as he slid to the side of the animal before finally falling off.
Unable to walk because of complications from a premature birth, Edgar was hoisted aloft by one of the cowboys in the ring. The little boy pumped his fists in the air and shouted with joy.
“I feel great,” Edgar shouted afterward.
Cheri Graves, of Creston, said she has been barrel racing for 27 years.
“I love barrel racing. It’s such a rush. I love it because it’s challenging. Rodeo is the American way of life,” Graves said as she prepared her saddle on her 8-year-old horse, Shine, for their turn in the arena.
Unlike baby Hawk Vanderlans, it was Tammy Berg’s first rodeo.
“I think it’s awesome — all the animals and the excitement of it all,” said Berg, of Oxnard. She said she’s visited the fair four times so far this year. Husband Gary Berg said this was his only visit.
“It’s wonderful, although the rodeo arena seems a bit small. I grew up in Colorado, and the arenas were bigger,” he said.
What: Ventura County Fair
When: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; midway opens at noon; PRCA Rodeo at 2 and 7 p.m.; fireworks at 10 p.m.
Where: Ventura County Fairgrounds, 10 W. Harbor Blvd., Ventura
Cost: $12 adults age 13 to 64; $9 children age 6 to 12 and seniors age 65 to 99; free for children 5 and younger and seniors 100 and older.
Information: www.venturacountyfair.org or 648-3376.
Parking: $10 at the fair lot that holds 2,000 vehicles.
Free shuttles: 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. at Ventura County Government Center Lots E and F, near Telephone Road and Victoria Avenue, Ventura; Ventura High School, Larrabee Stadium parking lots off Poli Street, Ventura; Pacific View mall at Sears Auto Center, off Mills Road, Ventura; Harbor Boulevard and Schooner Drive, Ventura; Ventura Unified School District parking lot, West Stanley Avenue at Highway 33; Oxnard Performing Arts Center, 800 Hobson Way. Free shuttle also stops at San Buenaventura State Beach parking lot where there is a $10 parking fee and nearby Marriott Ventura Beach, where there is an $8 parking fee. Wheelchair-accessible shuttles are available.