The Livermore Rodeo tradition is set to return this weekend after a two-year pandemic hiatus.
Livermore Stockmen's Rodeo Association President Sheila Fagliano told Livermore Vine that the organization got the green light to host this year's rodeo in March and "by the grace of God" they were able to put the event together on short notice.
Behind the scenes, the organization had continued holding meetings throughout the past two years and planning for the rodeo to one day return, according to Fagliano. However, they halted their fundraising efforts out of respect for the financial strain some people experienced amid the pandemic. "It's really hard to justify going out and trying to raise money for the rodeo when there are people not working and people are struggling," she said.
The pause on the fundraising left the association with "a shoestring budget" to operate from for this year. "Luckily, I have an amazing team of directors and volunteers who have been doing this for years and thank goodness we have some loyal, longtime sponsors and vendors that were able to step up to the plate and help us," Fagliano said.
She added that local agencies including the city of Livermore, Livermore Police Department and the Livermore Area Recreation and Park District have been supportive and helpful in making sure the event comes together not only this year but pre-pandemic as well.
Due to the uncertainty leading up to the event, this year's rodeo will not introduce a new queen. Instead, 2019's rodeo queen Isabella Macchioni will carry on the duties until a new queen is selected next year. "There was no way to have a queen contest when we didn't know if we were going to have a rodeo," Fagliano said.
A full weekend of events are scheduled for this Saturday and Sunday (June 11-12), including the Livermore Rodeo Parade on Saturday, hosted by the Livermore Rotary Club. The parade kicks off on Second Street at 10 a.m., featuring local organizations, schools, businesses and residents.
Following the parade, rodeo events begin with the return of crowd-pleasers like saddle bronc and bareback riding, wild cow milking, steer wrestling, tie-down roping, team roping, barrel racing and bull riding.
The Livermore Rodeo is also introducing a new event called women's breakaway roping. According to Fagliano, this event is done at other rodeos and has gained more widespread popularity in recent years.
Breakaway roping participants have to rope a steer while on horseback. The ropes used in the event have a mechanism that breaks away when the person jerks it back, so they don't actually stop the steer as it's running.
The participant aims to make a "legal head catch," which is either getting the rope around the steer's horns, its neck or half of a horn. "These ladies do this in under five seconds," Fagliano said. She added that the steers have a protective padding around their horns as well.
Fagliano, who is the association's first woman president, said she was excited to be bringing another event for women to participate in.
A Livermore native, Fagliano grew up involved in the rodeo since her childhood, as a participant and an organizer. She came up through the ranks as a volunteer, an associate director, director and now president.
"I've always done this from a very special place in my heart because I love what it represents," she said.
She passed her rodeo roots down to her son who is now 25 and also competes in the rodeo and helps behind the scenes along with Fagliano's husband.
While she said she is honored to hold her current leadership position with LSRA, she couldn't succeed without her team.
"I think a good leader is someone who embraces their team because you don't do anything alone," Fagliano said. "I don't think that I'm anything special; I'm just part of a team that really believes in what we do and honoring our heritage."
Fagliano is also passionate about community service and involvement, which she is able to fulfill through her role with the association and her line of work in public education and community relations for Livermore Sanitation Inc.
It's important to her to use her role and knowledge as association president to help educate people about the history of rodeo in Livermore and in general. While she said she recognizes that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, she believes a lot of negative misconceptions about rodeo derive from a lack of education or understanding about its history.
The sport and entertainment aspects of rodeo today aim to pay homage to the ranchers of the past who had minimal resources and tools to restrain and calm their horses and cattle when they required medical attention such as vaccinations and other needs, according to Fagliano.
"The last thing we would ever do is try to hurt or injure an animal in any way, shape or form," she said, adding that the animals are often treated better than many people.
"They come first. The animals eat before you do because they can't go up to the barn and serve themselves a flake of hay," Fagliano said. "I can't convince everybody to think the way that I think, but I want to be able to give them insight so they maybe have a little better understanding."
Despite some having adverse views about the event, Fagliano said ticket sales for the return of the Livermore Rodeo have been through the roof. She said she expects for Saturday's tickets to sell out and Sunday to likely come close if not also selling out.
There are other events in the days leading up to the rodeo -- some of which did sell out -- including the cowgirl luncheon and the team branding mixer.
Saturday at the rodeo is "Tough Enough to Wear Pink Day" in support of breast cancer research.
The festivities will continue on day two, which is "Patriot Day" where rodeo-goers are encouraged to wear red, white or blue to show support for those in military service.
The top performers from Saturday will compete in the same events on Sunday. The teams with the best times in their events on Sunday will be declared the winners.
Also on Sunday will be the "Lil Pardners Rodeo" at 11 a.m., featuring children with special needs participating in a mock event.
The rodeo takes place at the rodeo grounds located at 3000 Robertson Park Road. Gates open at 11 a.m. and Grand Entry begins at 3 p.m. on both days. More information and tickets are available at livermorerodeo.com/boxoffice.