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Folsom Pro Rodeo turns 50 this July

Organizers seek items from rodeo's past
By: Don Chaddock Telegraph Managing Editor
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Dust, dirt, sweat and grit make up the Folsom Pro Rodeo as well as the men and women who started the event 50 years ago. Organizers hope to shed light on the town’s staple event and are asking for the public’s help as they continue their research. “There are a lot of new people in Folsom who don’t know about the rodeo or how it came to be (established) here,” said Mary Ann McAlea, vice president of the Folsom Chamber of Commerce and director of the Folsom Tourism Bureau. “How many people know ‘Nightline’ did a live show from the rodeo in 1985? We have the tape.” McAlea said the Dan Russell Arena sits empty most of the time, giving people the wrong impression. “There are rumors every year that the rodeo has been canceled,” she said. “That’s not true.” Rich Fiutko, past chairman of the board for the chamber and one of the event organizers, researched the rodeo at the Folsom History Museum. “I’m surprised they didn’t have more on the rodeo, considering how long it’s been going,” he said. “But they did have a lot of newspaper clippings.” Fiutko also sat down with some of the surviving organizers of the first rodeo. “I got with some of the presidents and past chairmen of the chamber,” he said. “We got about a dozen of them from the ‘60s and ‘70s.” He said they had some stories about the rodeo’s more colorful history. “They talked about some of what they went through like roughneck cowboys coming through town,” Fiutko said. Chamber CEO Joe Gagliardi said participating in the rodeo is hazardous. “We’ve had someone killed in the last decade,” he said. “We’ve also had a couple of bulls get loose in the parking lot.” Fiutko said at one time, rodeo organizers were treated to a special meal. “I found out that Sutter Street merchants used to put on a midnight breakfast at the clubhouse,” he said. McAlea said this year’s grand marshals of the rodeo are slated to be Sharon and Jim “Digger” Williams, who have been helping organize the event since they moved to town in 1960. The chamber is also asking for anyone with recollections, photographs or other Folsom Pro Rodeo memorabilia to contact them at (916) 985-2698.