Chowchilla Western Stampede Cattle Drive
The Chowchilla Western Stampede Cattle Drive is rich in history. From the farm to the city, the annual Chowchilla Western Stampede Cattle Drive arrives in Chowchilla with style and fanfare, surrounded by rodeo royalty. Dozens of local ranchers and volunteers help guide the cattle through the usually busy street. With hands waving and many smiling faces, the community lines the sidewalks to watch the passing cattle, horses, cowboys, and cowgirls. Organizers say the stampede is one of a few remaining such events in the country.
The Chowchilla Western Stampede Cattle Drive, down the main street of Robertson Boulevard in Chowchilla, California, first began on Friday, March 28, 1958. Since then, the cattle drive has become a tradition that is the official opening for the Chowchilla Western Stampede events. The weekend events include many team roping activities attracting contestants from all over the western United States. Winners earn cash prizes, Western belt buckles, and saddles. The Stampede ends the following weekend with barrel racing.
There are several versions of how the cattle drive started. According to local residents who have been involved, the cattle drive resulted from a bunch of young cowboys with a lot of energy.
In 1958, the stock for the Chowchilla Western Stampede was to be furnished by Paul Perry of Madera. He planned to have approximately 150 steers and 60 calves on hand for the big three-day event. The stock was on a ranch on the west side of Dairyland, more than nine miles southwest of Chowchilla. The committee was at a loss as to how they would get the steers to town.
The young cowboys decided they would drive the stock to town, which they did. As they got closer to town, they thought it would be funny to drive the steers right through the middle of town on Robertson Boulevard, which they did before turning the stock south to the fairgrounds.
The drive did create a sensation and definitely announced the coming of the Chowchilla Western Stampede. It did cause one problem. One Chowchilla resident got slightly upset when a steer stepped on his strawberry plants. The little incident ended up costing the Fair Manager $20.
But other than the one incident, throughout its long history, there has never been an injury as a result of driving the cattle down the main street of Chowchilla.
The Chowchilla Western Stampede Cattle Drive and the fairground events remain a valued part of Chowchilla’s rich heritage.