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A week of old-time Western festivities leads up to the 15th annual Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo

A cowboy tries to stay on his horse during the bareback riding contest. Photo: Alan Gibby/Zone57 Media
A cowboy tries to stay on his horse during the bareback riding contest at last year’s rodeo. Photo: Alan Gibby/Zone57 Media

By Allison Jarrell

Celebrating its fourth year of Rodeo Week activities, the San Juan Capistrano Chamber of Commerce invites residents and visitors to participate in a week of Western festivities leading up to the 15th annual Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo.

Mark Bodenhamer, executive director of the chamber, said the week-long celebration is meant to get the community excited about celebrating its equestrian heritage. The annual rodeo, he said, is a natural fit for San Juan Capistrano.

“It’s unlike anything else that happens in town,” Bodenhamer said. “We want to expose people to that.”

The chamber kicks off the week with a barbecue on Friday, Aug. 14 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Zoomars Petting Zoo, located at 31791 Los Rios Street in San Juan. The evening features live music performed by Swing Shift, food from Mission Grill, dancing and more. Admission is $20 per person with beer and wine available for purchase. Kids 10 and under eat and play in the petting zoo for free. Space is limited and reservations are required by contacting the chamber at 949.493.4700 or emailing

On Tuesday, Aug.18, folks are invited to relive the cowboy life around the campfire during an evening of cowboy songs, stories and poetry performed by Rusty Richards, an inductee of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and former member of the Western singing group Sons of the Pioneers. Richards, along with his son Jason and a special guest, will be singing duets and storytelling beginning at 8 p.m. at the Camino Real Playhouse, located at 31776 El Camino Real in San Juan. Tickets are $20 or $30 for a Cabaret table and can be purchased by calling the box office at 949.489.8082.

Bodenhamer said this year, the city of San Juan Capistrano coordinated its free San Juan Summer Nites Concert Series to have the country band Pickleback Shine perform during Rodeo Week. The concert— which takes place at the Historic Town Center Park located at 31852 El Camino Real—runs from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and includes dancing, food, beer and wine, a local business expo and free activities for kids. For more information, call 949.493.5911 or visit

Rodeo Week comes to a close at El Adobe de Capistrano on Thursday, Aug. 20 with the chamber’s annual tequila tasting event from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. The festive evening includes tastings of a dozen or so tequilas, appetizers and live music. Tickets are $25 per person and can be purchased at El Adobe or the chamber office, located at 31421 La Matanza Street.

For more information on this year’s Rodeo Week schedule and other happenings, visit

15th Annual Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo

A rodeo cowboy tries to maintain his positioning during the bull-riding contest. Photo: Alan Gibby/Zone57 Media
A rodeo cowboy tries to maintain his positioning during the bull-riding contest. Photo: Alan Gibby/Zone57 Media

The 15th annual Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo takes place Saturday, August 22 and Sunday, August 23.

Known as “America’s richest two-day rodeo,” the annual event has been hosted by Rancho Mission Viejo’s O’Neill-Avery-Moiso family for the past 15 years to celebrate the golden age of early California rodeo tradition and the heritage of the land.

This year’s all-star Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association line-up features the world’s best cowboys competing in saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, bull riding, steer wrestling, tie-down roping and team roping.

Having donated more than $1.5 million so far, proceeds from the rodeo benefit a number of South Orange County charities, including The Shea Center for Therapeutic Riding in San Juan Capistrano and CHOC at Mission Hospital.

On Saturday, gates open at 1 p.m. with opening ceremonies at 3:45 p.m. and the rodeo at 4 p.m. The competition will be followed by a concert and dance featuring Chancey Williams and the Younger Brothers Band at 6 p.m. Gates open at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday with the rodeo beginning at 1:30 p.m.

Tickets are $30 for adults, $10 for kids 4 to 12 years old and free for kids 3 and under. Parking is $5 cash only with limited availability. Tickets are on sale at seven locations in south Orange County (cash only): The Swallow’s Inn and Ortega Tack and Feed in San Juan Capistrano, Hennessy’s Tavern in Dana Point, Boot Barn in Lake Forest, Jerry’s Dogs in Ladera Ranch, Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo and the Sendero Guest House in Rancho Mission Viejo. Cash, debit and credit cards are accepted at the gates.

For more information about the rodeo, visit or

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