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Livermore Rodeo, in 100th year, puts out call for memorabilia to go in book

Livermore Rodeo organizers are putting out a call for help — it’s time to round up every old rodeo program, photo and buckle that may have been tucked away for decades and corral them all up for a once-in-a-hundred-years project.
The goal, underway for a year now, is to gather as much history as possible to be compiled into a book marking the 100th anniversary of the “World’s Fastest Rodeo,” which first opened its chutes in 1918.
“What’s sad is that over the years, with as much as was saved, we didn’t really (develop) a great archive of photos and information,” said Livermore Rodeo Board member Sheila Fagliano. “We’re now working hard to scan those items and organize them so that we have an ongoing historic file for generations to come, which should have been done years ago. The volunteers have done the best they can, but we’re now focusing so that 100 years from now we’ll have this information, which will be amazing.”
Livermore Rodeo associate director Alyssa Perry holds a photograph owned by Wendy Howe, of Livermore, of her mother Patsy Holm Neely, left, and friend Serena Webb Foxworthy, that was taken in 1953 in Livermore, Calif., on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. The Livermore Rodeo has asked the public to bring old rodeo memorabilia to the rodeo office to be scanned for the 100th anniversary Livermore Rodeo book story that will be published later this year. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 
Organizers have already gathered many items but hope to find more, particularly from the event’s first 25 years. They’re asking community members who may have memorabilia to call or email the group to arrange for their items to be seen and potentially scanned or photographed.
Livermore rodeo began in 1918 as World War II continued. The Red Cross, working to finance its war effort, assessed California cities and towns as part of its fundraising. Livermore, a ranching and farming community at that time, was asked to contribute $1,200 — a significant amount during those years. John McGlinchey, president of the Livermore Stockmen’s Protective Association, proposed a rodeo, since many of the young men in the area had participated in San Jose’s rodeo and wanted their own local event.
“They were disenchanted with the way the rodeo was going in San Jose, so they decided we could put one on ourselves and that it would be bigger and better than the one in San Jose. And that’s how we’d raise the money,” said Kathryn McGlinchey Laughlin, McGlinchey’s granddaughter and current vice president of the Livermore Rodeo Foundation. “The whole town jumped into it.”
The first Livermore rodeo was held in a natural basin area on a portion of the James Anderson Ranch, located near what is now the Portola Avenue off-ramp from Interstate 580. The event was filmed by Universal Studios, and the newsreel was shown throughout the country.
“That’s really what put Livermore on the map,” Laughlin said. “It was the first time Livermore’s name and pictures of the rodeo and parade were filmed. … In my mother and dad’s day, to go to the movies was big stuff, and to be able to see what was going on in the rest of the world was quite a thing. Livermore became a household name not just because of our wines but because of the publicity the rodeo got.”
Scootie Castello, of Livermore, from left, and Livermore Rodeo associate director Alyssa Perry examine newspaper articles in Livermore, Calif., on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. The Livermore Rodeo has asked the public to bring old rodeo memorabilia to the rodeo office to be scanned for the 100th anniversary Livermore Rodeo book story that will be published later this year. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 
The success of the first rodeo in 1918 — including the raising of more than the required $1,200 — led to the formation of the Livermore Stockmen’s Rodeo Association the next year, which bought land from Callaghan Vineyard on Lizzie Street — now Portola Avenue — to relocate the event. By the rodeo’s second year, 2,400 seats had been built. Improvements continued over the years, with additional seating, covered grandstands, additional chutes and holding pens and a public address system replacing an announcer on horseback with a megaphone. The rodeo grew, as did its reputation, with festivities extending for a week or more. A large parade was held, in addition to daily horse parades out to the rodeo grounds. First Street light poles were festooned, banners were strung, shop windows were decorated, and men in town grew beards for the “Whiskerino Contest.” For years, a carnival was set up in the downtown, and street dances were held at night on J Street between First and Second streets. Anyone caught not wearing western wear during rodeo days was at risk of being locked up — temporarily — in the “Hoosegow,” a bright yellow rolling jail that patrolled the downtown.
“It was the social event of the entire year,” Laughlin said.
Fagliano’s family, like many others in Livermore, has deep roots in the rodeo; both her grandfathers — Alfred Sachau and George Cardoza — were area ranchers who participated in the 1918 event. But she and organizers say since so many locals were active participants in the early days of the rodeo, there are still many families in town who may have important memorabilia from those years, or whose parents or grandparents may have played peripheral but important roles in the city’s rodeo history.
“Back then, everybody had a horse, a little ranch of some type, whether it was 2 or 2,000 acres. This sort of activity was very normal to us, very much a part of everyone’s life,” Fagliano said. “That’s why this book is so important. … You didn’t have to be a big-time competitor. There probably are people out there who provided the stock; maybe their grandfather was an announcer or an entertainer during the rodeo. We want to make sure everyone has an opportunity to bring their stuff forward.”
To arrange for historical rodeo memorabilia to be seen and possibly included in the book project or archive, contact Sheila Fagliano at 925-250-7485.

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