Richest two-day rodeo saddles up at Rancho Mission Viejo
It’s the time of year when the nation’s best cowboys converge at Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park in San Juan Capistrano for the 16th annual Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo.
The best 30 riders in six categories will showcase their skills Saturday and Sunday.
The invitational event has been a staple for traditional competitive horse and bull riding since its inception in 2000 and, with a total purse of $294,000, the Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo makes its claim as America’s Richest Two-Day Rodeo.
“We try to celebrate the American West,” said Tony Moiso, president and CEO of Rancho Mission Viejo. “We’ve created what we believe is a pretty good social event in San Juan Capistrano.”
Events for this year’s rodeo include bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling and team roping. With good results, riders have a chance to move up in rankings and qualify for the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, a 10-day event that invites only the top 15 riders in each category.
For riders, rankings are based on earnings for the year, and Rancho Mission Viejo is a crucial stop for those hoping to improve their standing. Each event awards approximately $42,000 to the top eight riders, with approximately $10,000 going to the event winner, officials said.
“This rodeo gives the opportunity for the guy who is on the bubble, maybe 16th, 17th or 18th, the chance to win $10,000,” said Gil Aguirre, executive vice president of ranch operations.
“Here, you ride one horse, give it your best and you can win,” Aguirre said, adding that the one-time ride makes the event more competitive.
To match having the best riders in town, rodeo organizers bring in the best talent on the microphones. Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame announcers Bob Tallman and Bob Feist will not only keep the crowd entertained, but will provide learning experiences for first-time rodeo visitors.
“They keep the crowd engaged the entire time because there is a lot of setup time between rides,” said Katrina Lamkin, vice president of Rancho Mission Viejo. “It really is an interactive experience no matter where you’re sitting.”
The event fills up, with 3,500 to 3,800 available seats in the grandstands and an additional area of tables for sponsors who pay upwards of $2,000. Tickets to the event are $30 for adults, $12 for children ages 4 to 12 and free for kids 3 and under. Parking is $5.
Across the arena, a shaded area includes sponsor tables with eight seats each that can be purchased for $5,000 to $20,000.
“It becomes a place to be seen, it’s getting to be a social event,” Aguirre said.
The event makes approximately $100,000 annually and all of the proceeds are donated to charities, including Children’s Hospital of Orange County, the Shea Center in San Juan Capistrano and the Justin Boot Medical Team, which provides medical services at the rodeo.
The rodeo has generated $1.6 million for charities in its first 15 years of operation.
“Nobody (here) makes any money,” Moiso said. “To make sure we pay it all off, we probably will have to take some out of our own pocket.”
The event includes 50 vendors, with a kids area, pony rides, face painters, barbecue, apparel and snow cones, among others.
For more information and a list of nearby locations in San Juan Capistrano selling advance tickets, visit RMVRodeo.com.
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