Cowboy Capital of the World

To many people, Oakdale in Stanislaus County, CA,  is known as a gateway to Yosemite Valley and the site of the Hershey Chocolate Factory. But those in cowboy circles know it's really where you go to find the world's best rodeo stars.

This is a community unique unto itself. It is a town where
rodeo history runs deep. Just look at the old cowboy hats and diesel trucks in town. You can't help but be reminded of exactly why Oakdale earned the title of Cowboy Capitol of the World.

A Place where Rodeo Stars hang their Hats

Ranchers and cowboys alike, left their horses at home on Wednesday, April 9 as they were busy as servers at the Second Annual Cowgirl Luncheon, hosted by the Oakdale Cowboy Museum. Pictured are: Ace Berry, Jerold Camarillo, Jim Charles, Judd McAfee, Ron and Pat Grohl, Pat Kirby, Bill Martinelli, Ted Nuce, Jim Ramont, Eric Roen, Phill Stadtler, Jim Wheatley and Vern Serpa.

The town, with a population of 17,000, is home to more retired rodeo world champions than anywhere else in the country. With the likes of Ace Berry, Harley May, Sonny Tureman, Ted Nuce and the Camarillo brothers, just to name a few, Oakdale holds some stories you could say gave the Wild West its name.

Take Jim Charles, for instance. He found fame as the second man ever to ride the famous bucking bull, Tornado. He rode the horned giant in the world championship and took home the title. But he got his start bunking with a couple of other rodeo hopefuls who spent their days working for ranchers and nights dreaming of rodeo stardom. "It's just cowboy country," he admitted.

For so many, that's the way it happened. It wasn't that Oakdale raised great rodeo stars; it simply raised hard-working ranchers, whose work translated into sport. Chasing down cattle meant learning how to rope ... and how to ride. And as legend has it, that's how rodeo came to be. The word itself means "the gathering of cattle," or "round up."

Rodeo is still recognized, in fact, as the only sport that's born out of a lifestyle. Decades ago that lifestyle included a little friendly competition at the end of the day. Ranchers would place bets on whose ranch-hand would best be able to bring in the herd, or most quickly rope a steer. A competition grew out of their simple game, which, these days, is big money.
"I'd love to get on a bull for $10,000 or $12,000 like they do now," said Jim Charles. "Back in my time it was a couple hundred dollars. Three or four hundred was the most I'd ever won. But I was happy, boy was I happy."

Many of these old-time rodeo stars still find great happiness in the business, and are thrilled to see professional bull riding and other rodeo events gain such popularity.
Jerold Camarillo, who was a team roping champ with his brother Leo, now has a successful business training roping hopefuls from around the worldmall from his ranch in Oakdale. Camarillo himself, who won his first roping competition at the age of seven, still competes in old-timer rodeos, and still has quite a following. Like the others, he feels it's simply a lifestyle, and one that he's fortunate to have lived.

"Yeah, this is the life," said Martinelli. "Some of the folks out here, it's all they've ever known. Their folks rodeo'd and they go on to rodeo too. There's a lot of two and three and four generation cowboys who rodeo."

Still today, many rodeo hopefuls dream of following in the footsteps of those who put Oakdale on the cowboy map, and still reside there today. The town boasts 25 world champion rodeo titles, and seven inductees into the Rodeo Hall of Fame.

Phil Stadtler, Cowboy Legend

In 2004 the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City recognized another famous cowboy from the region with their most prestigious award, the Chester A. Reynolds Award, given to a true "American Cowboy." Eighty-five-year-old Phil Stadtler is a cowboy legend, respected for his business smarts that equated to the trade of millions of cattle across the Mexico border, not to mention punches he traded with famous Hollywood cowboy Slim Pickens. He also made a name for himself as a bulldogger, steer wrestler and team roper.
It is cowboys like Stadtler and the rest--more than a dozen others--who have truly created a gold-plated reputation for Oakdale. It's a town whose high school is still among a select few in the country, and the only one in the state, that allows students to earn a varsity letter in rodeo. People flock there every April to attend the famous Oakdale Rodeo. The Cowboy Museum, visited by tourists the world over, sits in the old Southern Pacific railroad depot in the center of town. More information about the museum may be viewed at www.oakdalecowboymuseum.org

Credit: California Farm Bureau for article

Oakdale Events

Annual Testicle March Festival - You'll have a ball!!!

The prime attraction is often referred to as rocky mountain oysters,
calf fries, cowboy caviar or a 'nut feed,'
A crew of about 12 people will assemble the morning before the event, and work all day. A community service group skin the testicles, dice them and marinate them in wine, garlic and bay leaf. A "delicacy" they say. The following day they are deep fried and prepared with the remainder of the menu, which  usually includes beans, green salad and garlic bread.

Held in March - FES Hall - Oakdale
Open Bar 6:00 P.M. – Dinner 7:00 P.M.
Ticket price $50 - At the door $65
Souvenir merchandise available at Cowboy Museum

Join the National celebration honoring the American Cowboy, Late July

Additional information on the National Day of the American Cowboy can be found at www.cowboyday.com

Rodeo Week at the Cowboy Museum
Usually held in April

Wednesday - April 11. 2007 11:30 A.M. – 1:00 P.M.
Cowgirl Luncheon - Tickets TBA

Thursday - April 12, 2007 5:00 P.M. – 7:00 P.M.
Chamber Mixer
C'mon out and mingle with us!
BBQ and cocktails
Dummy roping for kids and adults too!

Annual Cowboy Christmas

Saturday - Late November
Western Gift & Craft Show
Oakdale Community Center
Free Admission

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