By Paul and Teresa Lowe
Some people say that on any given day in Los Angeles you can find a million and one different things to do for entertainment. Spending a couple of summer afternoons at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo is indeed pure family entertainment. After only a few minutes inside the Industry Hills horse show arena you discover that this is no ordinary rodeo. The Bill Pickett Rodeo show features African American Cowboys, Cowgirls and celebrity riders and ropers who not only entertain but teach audiences about the true contributions of Blacks and their culture to the development of the old western United States. This rodeo also serves as a fund-raiser for children educational foundations.
This national and world wide touring cultural rodeo is the dream fulfillment of the late Lu Vason, who 31 years ago, started the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo to honor the late legendary Black Cowboy. (Bill Pickett; 1870-1932) Bill Pickett invented what’s known today in rodeos as bulldogging. It’s the skill of riding down, roping and grabbing cattle by the horns and then wrestling them to the grown. The skill was popularized in the Buffalo Bill and Will Roger Wild West Shows. Pickett is part of the National Rodeo Hall of Fame. He’s called the greatest sweat and dirt cowhand that ever lived.
Kids seem to really enjoy a version of a ‘running of the bulls presentation. Relax, it’s safe. Youngsters get to run around in the arena trying to pet several young baby cows. Just outside of the arena there is great smelling and even greater tasting ranch style bar-b-que and delicious soul food.
Lu Vason, a one time model, actor and talent promoter, passed away in May 2015. However, Vason’s widow Valerie and celebrity friends such as SAG and Image Award winning actor James Pickens Jr, (Dr. Richard Webber of TV’s Grey’s Anatomy.) Emmy nominated TV and stage actor Obba Babatunde, and Emmy Award winning actor Glynn Turman (Own’s ‘Queen Sugar” and Showtime’s ‘House of Lies’ series) and award winning actor Reginald T. Dorsey are helping to keep the rodeo dream alive for future generations. This rodeo is awesome a must experience for fantastic fun.
In 1947 through a group of wealthy Black businessmen, prominent East Texas ranchers, and a handful of Black cowboys the Negro Cowboy’s Rodeo Association was born. It was the country’s first and only organized Black Cowboy association and produced its own rodeos across the west.