Gilroy Rodeo, first major event since Garlic Festival shooting, offers chance for healing

GILROY, Calif. (KGO) -- The Gilroy Rodeo began in 1929, but was closed in 1956, in large part because a school was built on the rodeo grounds.

This year marks just the second year since its return. But this year's rodeo already takes on special meaning for the community, says rodeo director, Erik Martin.

"This rodeo is the first major event (after the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting), and I feel like the majority of people are going to come out here and support the community and support 'Gilroy Strong,'" says Martin.

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Part of the theme of "Gilroy Strong" is making to make Gilroy feel safe.

Organizers say they re-examined their security protocols following the fatal shooting and identified areas that needed to be beefed up, especially the perimeter, which was a problem at the Gilroy Garlic Festival.

"We have ensured that our perimeter has been secured. And there may not be things that you see that we have done," says Kurt Ashley, the Public Safety Director, who says he can't talk about specific changes.

Ashley says increased security includes adding officers on horseback and deputies on off-road motorcycles, who will be patrolling the area.

There will also be extra security at the entrance. Everyone will go through metal detectors and every bag will be searched - no exceptions, says Ashley.

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Ryan Smith, 12, will be competing in the steer riding event, which is like bull riding but for young kids.

He says the festival shooting had a huge impact on the community, but being out at the rodeo is big part of getting back to normal.

"I'm not scared now, because people around here are really great," says Smith. "Hopefully, I don't fall off."

Cody Town, 16, is a volunteer for the event. He says participating is helping him cope.

He says it keeps his mind off the shooting and focused on moving forward.

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"Volunteering definitely helps, getting out here, being out here with everyone, all these good people," says Town. "Coming out here, bringing this whole event together, shows how strong everybody is."

Corissa King is this year's Gilroy Rodeo Queen.

She wants a strong turnout to show that Gilroy is making a strong comeback. Her message to her community: stay strong and think positive.

"I understand that it was a tragedy, but we can't let that take us over. Everyone just has to get back to normal and their daily lives. Like I said, you can't live your life in fear," says King.

Go here for a full list of event at the rodeo.

Go here for full coverage of the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting.
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