Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo
by Thomas Dorsey, SoulOfAmerica
Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, America’s only touring black rodeo, sports a unique blend of wholesome Black culture, bold athleticism and American patriotism on full display. The crowd moves from the solemn quiet of little boys and girls hugging their parents to boisterous roar as both Lift Every Voice and Sing and the national anthem bellow over the loudspeakers.
Though the crowd of 1000 spectators had plenty of groupies, there were more newbies who had never before seen a black cowboy wearing silver-encrusted belts or cowgirls with cowry shells. I couldn’t help but think, they’re adding new black cowboys and cowgirls, one at a time. Now I know why Lu Vason, the rodeo’s promoter and founder in 1984, sports a Cheshire Cat grin as each BPIR rodeo begins.
The muss of hurried anticipation emanates from the gated entrance of the rodeo complex. I see the shiny coats of well-groomed horses with more muscles than a weightlifter and buffed cowboys with, taut leather duds and premium cowboy hats. Then the first bull and calf are roped — mass celebration breaks out.
To the folks fooled by old cowboy movies and American history books, BPIR obliterates the myth that there were no black cowboys. In fact, they were messengers with the Pony Express, among others in the Old West.
In 1870, Bill Pickett was born from this stock of men. He created the rodeo event of bull dogging where a cowboy rides after a steer, leaps off his horse, grabs it by the horns, bites it on the lip and wrestles it to the ground. His seminal event is a staple of rodeo life today, without the bite on the lip part.
Bill Pickett’s legacy lives on with black cowboys and cowgirls who are teachers, lawyers, business-owners and occasionally, a housewife that join in for bull riding, calf roping and barrel racing.
The magic of Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo is also in the face of the sisters meeting hunky brothers, who look like walking posters of virility. And how about ‘them tall, sexy and immaculately dapped cowgirls who take a backseat to no one. Most of all, notice the starry-eyed, grinning kids saying “When I grow up, I want to be a cowboy.” Bill Pickett must be somewhere Cheshire Cat-smiling too.
For their tour schedule, visit Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo