Fortuna Lodging Alliance salutes the oldest rodeo in Northern California
FORTUNA – Since 1921, this Humboldt County town has invited the toughest cowboys across California and beyond to test their spurs against the meanest bovines and equines in the country. For the centennial edition of the Fortuna rodeo, a weeklong celebration from July 12-18, another formidable brute could show up, Sasquatch.
Andrès "Sasquatch" Gonzalez, one of the top American freestyle bullfighters, claimed the Bullfighters Only (BFO) trophy when he flipped, dodged, twisted and bluffed his away around Fortuna’s Rohner Park arena at the last BFO event held there in 2019.
The Yolo County native considered the win, one of the top money prizes on the BFO circuit, especially cherished since it was so close to home.
“I think it’s great having a California guy winning an event like this,” Gonzalez said after the win. “It was an awesome experience,” he added, a nod to the rowdy fans in Fortuna.
Four hours north of San Francisco on Highway 101, the town of 12,000 is noted for its ranches, dairy farms and proximity to the Avenue of the Giants and Redwood National Park, two of the world's top nature destinations.
Gonzalez, ranked among the top freestyle bullfighters in the world in competition points and money earned, thinks his heritage offers him a leg up in the American version of the Spanish sport.
“You don’t see too many Hispanics on the rodeo side of things, especially in freestyle bullfighting,” Gonzalez told TwistedRodeo.com. “I feel like I was born to be a freestyle bullfighter. It’s in my blood.”
Besides the return of American bullfighting, the Fortuna rodeo welcomes back plenty of cowboy and cowgirl classics, with competitors vying for cash, trophies, belt buckles and bragging rights in Bull Riding, Saddle Bronc, Bareback Riding, Calf Roping, Barrel Racing and Mutton Bustin, which features tots wearing bike helmets tearing from one side of the arena to the other atop fast trotting sheep.
Speaking of young competition, the Fortuna Junior Rodeo, the largest in Northern California, also returns this year. And for more family amusements, the city and Rohner Park will host a parade, carnival, midway rides, street games with an egg toss and stick horse race, fireman’s games and quadiators, which are quad racing teams chasing each other around to bash balloons on the heads of their competitors, gently of course.
For the week's complete schedule, go here.
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the event, the Fortuna Lodging Alliance, dedicated to sharing the rural heritage of central Humboldt, is offering commemorative t-shirts to Fortuna hotel guests who share their rodeo photos on social media with the hashtag #fortunarodeo or emailing the Fortuna Lodging Alliance.
“People come here for the California redwoods. But when they’re here, they see the amazing beauty of the Eel River Valley and its rustic communities, foremost of which is Fortuna,” said Jeff Durham with the Fortuna Lodging Alliance. “We thought it’d be nice to remind our visitors of that with these Rodeo mementos.”
Those pining for the big trees won’t have far to go. Besides rodeo grounds, playground and historic railroad depot museum, Rohner Park (9 Park St, Fortuna, CA) has a 55-acre redwoods forest with a two-mile trail through mature second growth trees.
For more rodeo photos, go here.
Fortuna Lodging Alliance
An association of Fortuna hoteliers, the Fortuna Lodging Alliance is part of the Humboldt Lodging Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting responsible tourism to Humboldt County, located on the Northern California's Redwood Coast and home to the world's tallest trees of the Avenue of the Giants of Redwood National Park. For more information, go to VisitHumboldt.com
Fortuna Rodeo Association
The Fortuna Rodeo has brought ranchers, farmers, locals and guests since 1921 to the scenic Eel River Valley, one of California's most productive beef and dairy agricultural regions. Organized by the Fortuna Rodeo Association, it's the largest and oldest rodeo in Northern California. For more information, go to FortunaRodeo.com