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The Chamber of Commerce hopes to gradually build the weeklong event into a new city tradition
By Brian Park
In a city filled with tradition, the San Juan Capistrano Chamber of Commerce is hoping there’s room for one more.
Rodeo Week returns to San Juan Capistrano for the second straight year, starting Friday, August 16. After coordinating with some local businesses, the chamber has scheduled Western-themed activities and events for all but one day. The week culminates on Saturday, August 24 and Sunday, August 25 with the 13th consecutive Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo, which is heralded as the “richest two-day” rodeo in the country, with a purse totaling over $200,000, and is an important stop in the professional rodeo circuit.
The chamber started Rodeo Week last year as a way to capitalize on the Rodeo’s popularity and to further highlight San Juan Capistrano’s Western and ranching heritage.
“There was just so very little tying the Rodeo to our city in an official capacity, and we just saw that as a big missed opportunity,” said Mark Bodenhamer, CEO of the chamber. “The Rodeo and Rodeo Week touch on so many of those things that makes San Juan a unique destination: The central elements are Western heritage, our equestrian community, our open space and outdoor events.”
Gilbert Aguirre, executive vice president and the head of ranch operations at Rancho Mission Viejo, said in an email that both events strive to protect those elements, in addition to supporting the city and local organizations.
“We are proud to share our Western heritage and bring the sport of rodeo to our San Juan neighbors,” Aguirre wrote. “We are so pleased to have the rodeo adopted by the chamber, as thousands of rodeo guests and competitors come into town, stay in local hotels, dine at local restaurants and spend their dollars downtown.”
Bodenhamer said planning and executing the first Rodeo Week was a learning experience for the chamber. While the week was positively received, according to Bodenhamer, there were some elements that didn’t work as well as the chamber would have liked, primarily the timing of events and scheduling conflicts, including a City Council meeting that barred city leaders and staff from participating.
“There were hits and misses,” Bodenhamer said. “We have time. The goal isn’t so much to do it all right out of the gate as much as it is getting it going and seeing how it grows.”
One new event Bodenhmer is optimistic about is the first Rodeo Ride on Sunday, August 18. Around 50 to 75 riders will travel along San Juan Creek Road on horseback, including a stop at the still-developing Reata Park and Event Center.
“Having been fortunate enough to go on the Portola ride, I really liked that experience and thought that this would be something out community would really enjoy,” Bodenhamer said.
Mayor Pro Tem Sam Allevato, a noted equestrian enthusiast, said he plans on taking part in the ride and believes it has the potential to become a staple event in the coming years.
“This is just reinvigorating a long-standing tradition of Western heritage. This town has always celebrated that and this is bringing it all together,” Allevato said. “This is an opportunity to introduce people to enjoy horseback riding in the city’s open space and to learn more about the trail system and Reata Park.”
Last year, during a media event introducing Rodeo Week, Bodenhamer said he believed it could become “the biggest thing we can do” in a decade and that the chamber wanted to make it “a central part of what we do.” Although the chamber doesn’t have a concrete plan of how it will happen, Bodenhamer said that like all traditions, Rodeo Week will start as a labor of love that will gradually grow over time.
“It’s not a big money maker for the chamber, but it’s the right thing to do,” Bodenhamer said. “We just have a belief that this is a special thing, a unique thing, that showcases our community.”
2013 Rodeo Week Schedule of Events
FRIDAY, AUGUST 16
Kick-off Country BBQ
Hamilton Oaks Winery, 29943 Camino Capistrano. 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Just like last year, the week begins with an evening of barbecue, live music and dancing. Hamilton Oaks Winery will open up their barrels of special “Rodeo Red” and “Wrangler White” wines to celebrate the occasion. Food will be provided by Mission Grill and country music will be performed by local favorite, Swing Shift. The event is $35 to attend and includes food and valet parking. Sponsorship opportunities are available for businesses.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 17
Movie and Music
Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park at San Juan Capistrano, 30753 La Pata Avenue. 6 p.m.
A family-friendly event featuring a movie and live music under the starts at the site of the Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 18
Ortega Equestrian Center, 27252 Calle Arroyo. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Starting from the Ortega Equestrian Center, the horseback trail ride will run along San Juan Creek, through the city’s open space and includes a stop at the Reata Park and Event Center. The trail ride runs from 10 a.m. to noon and will be followed by lunch, courtesy of Bad to the Bone BBQ. Space is limited. The cost to ride and for lunch is $50 and comes with a commemorative medallion. Rental horses cost $200.
MONDAY, AUGUST 19
Country Dancing with DJ Patrick
The Swallow’s Inn, 31786 Camino Capistrano. 6:30 p.m. to midnight.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 20
Cowboy Music and Poetry with Rusty Richards
Camino Real Playhouse, 31776 El Camino Real. 8 p.m.
Hall of Fame Western musician Rusty Richards returns to perform original songs and poetry. Admission is $20 at the door.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 22
El Adobe de Capistrano, 31891 Camino Capistrano. 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Specialty tequilas for tasting from Abreojos, Casa Nobles, Corralejo, Don Julio, Jose Cuervo, King of Mezcal, Partida, Patron, Peligroso, Tres Siestas and Tributo. Tickets cost $20 and also include appetizers.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 23
Rodeo Band Preview
The Swallow’s Inn, 31786 Camino Capistrano. 6:30 p.m. to midnight.
Chancey Williams and the Younger Brothers Band, featured musicians for the Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo, perform on stage.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 24 – SUNDAY, AUGUST 25
2013 Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo
Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park at San Juan Capistrano, 30753 La Pata Avenue