GILROY, Calif. (KGO) -- As Santa Clara County has grown, few think of it as cowboy country. A two-day event this weekend in Gilroy is set to celebrate the area's love of rodeos. The Gilroy Rodeo was last held in 1956.
It has been six straight months of work to get a 150 by 310 foot arena and other facilities ready. The Gilroy Rodeo is back, thanks to Erik Martin, who runs a major contracting firm but is passionate about keeping the Western heritage of this city alive.
"It just seems so important to keep that heritage alive," Martin said. "You know, the vaquero tradition, the Mexican heritage that's here, these guys with these ropes. Horsemen. It came from that."
Joyce Vieiera just brought in a load of young roping cattle. The 77-year-old is the rodeo's grand marshal and a lifelong rodeo competitor. As Gilroy has grown into a large city, she thinks the rodeo will be good for many young people.
"There's so many hundreds of kids, thousands of kids that live in town," she said. "They don't know what a horse is or a cat or a dog. They don't get a pet or do those things."
One of them is 14 year old Ryan Town, who has spent four days volunteering, helping to set up tables and chairs.
"I'm really excited for this weekend," he said. "I'm going to be helping out maybe pushing up the steers back in the chutes. Yeah, I'm really excited."
More than 300 people have signed up to compete in various events Saturday and Sunday. The oldest is 81. Kids under three will compete in a sheep riding contest."
The statue of an historic rodeo star, Casey Tibbs, and his horse War Paint will make an appearance. The landmark graced downtown Gilroy for years until it was put out to pasture four years ago.
Professional bull rider Rob Smetz will be announcing some of the events. A San Martin native, he says there's no sport like rodeo. He flew in from Texas to be part of the rodeo's return.
"Cowboys like to brag just like football and baseball players," he said. "I'm a little bit better than you, or I've got a horse that bucks better than your horse. That's where the sport all evolved from."
Five thousand fans are expected to turn out each day. Proceeds will go to youth programs.
Tickets are available on site for $25. Children 12 and under are admitted free.