The Fiesta Stock Horse Show was once a Saturday afternoon only event dating back to 1924. It involved showing stock horses, some cattle work, and roping and was held at the old Pershing Park arena on Castillo Street. During the very first fiestas, a “competencia de vaqueros” was the highlight of the festivities. Cowboys from surrounding ranches came to town to show off their roping and riding skills and the young horses they were training. Rancher J. J. Hollister sponsored a handmade saddle to the winner of the stock horse class as a way to encourage the development of superior cow working horses.
In 1958 the Fiesta Stock Horse Show was moved to the Earl Warren Showgrounds and professional rodeo was added to the show which consists of professional steer wrestling, team roping, bareback broncos, saddle broncos, and bull riding. The name of the event was also changed to the Old Spanish Days Fiesta Stock Horse Show & Rodeo.
The main endeavor of the Fiesta celebration is to bring to town the cowboys from the many local ranches in the Tri-Counties. You must live within the Tri-Counties (San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara or Ventura) to be eligible to compete. The objective being to get local amateur horsemen competing among themselves to see who has the best horse, or is the best roper, brander, etc.
During each paid performance we have a grand entry where we introduce dignitaries and our annually chosen Honorary Vaquero. The Honorary Vaquero Program was conceived back in the late 1960’s by Max R. Watkins, who at the time, was Chairman of the Fiesta Stock Horse Show & Rodeo. His intentions were to honor “Old Timers” who so often go through life unrecognized. Each year we try to select a person who has during his or her career contributed to the community and been generous with their time in helping other cattle producers and ranchers with their round-ups and brandings.