Chowchilla Western Stampede Cattle Drive
The Chowchilla Western Stampede Cattle Drive is rich in history. From the farm to the city, the annual Chowchilla Western Stampede Cattle Drive arrives in Chowchilla with style and fanfare surrounded by rodeo royalty. Dozens of local ranchers and volunteers help guide the cattle through the usually busy street. With hands waving and many smiling faces, the community lines the sidewalks to watch the passing cattle, horses, cowboys and cowgirls. Organizers say the stampede is one of a few remaining such events in the country.
The Chowchilla Western Stampede Cattle Drive down the main street of Robertson Boulevard in Chowchilla, California first began on Friday, March 28, 1958. Since then the cattle drive has become a tradition that is the official opening for the Chowchilla Western Stampede events. The weekend events include lots of team roping activities attracting contestants from all over the western United States. Winners earn cash prizes, Western belt buckles and saddles. The Stampede ends the following weekend with barrel racing.
There are several versions as to how the cattle drive started. According to local residents Dan Branco and Jim Looney, the cattle drive was the end result of a bunch of young cowboys with a lot of energy.
In 1958, the stock for the Chowchilla Western Stampede was to be furnished by Paul Perry of Madera. He planned to have approximately 150 steers and 60 calves on hand for the big three-day event. The stock was on a ranch on the west-side of Dairyland, more than nine miles southwest of Chowchilla. The committee was at a loss as to how they were going to get the steers to town.
The young cowboys decided they would simply drive the stock to town, which they did. As they got closer to town they thought it would be funny to drive the steers right through the middle of town on Robertson Boulevard, which they did before turning the stock south to the fairgrounds.
The drive did create a sensation and definitely announced the coming of the Chowchilla Western Stampede. It did cause one problem. One Chowchilla resident got a little upset when a steer stepped on his strawberry plants. The little incident ended up costing the Fair Manager $20.
But other than the one incident, throughout its long history there has never been an injury as a result of driving the cattle down the main street Chowchilla.
The Chowchilla Western Stampede Cattle Drive and the events at the fairgrounds remain a valued part of Chowchilla’s rich heritage.