Community comes out for annual Chowchilla Western Stampede

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Cattle and cowboys took over Chowchilla on Friday. The annual Chowchilla Western Stampede took place in the morning. (KFSN)

From the farm to the city, cattle arrived in style and fanfare surrounded by rodeo royalty and law enforcement for the annual Chowchilla Western Stampede on Friday. The community lined the sidewalk to watch the event.

"I've been a teacher for six years, and it's kind of been a tradition that you don't ever miss. We have to come, the kids are excited, they make the cowboy hats, and it's just a good time," said Amanda Hardcastle, a teacher at Fuller Elementary School.

Hardcastle brought her second grade class. The kids came in their Western attire, ready to see the cattle and horses.

"It's almost like a parade, but it's not really," said student Cameron Gilles.

"I like seeing animals ride. I like animals," said student Anna Ceja.

Dozens of local ranchers and volunteers helped guide the cattle through the usually busy street. Organizers say it all started 58 years ago on a whim.

"A bunch of local cowboys wanted to start a big time team roping, which they did. But all the cattle were way out south of town where they held them, and they couldn't afford the trucks to bring them in, so they just said 'well, here we go,' and they swam across the river out there and drove them to town," said Stampede Chairman Tommy Martin.

That led the cattle to march down the street and stopped neighbors in their tracks. These days it's an annual tradition that locals say is important to uphold.

"One of the big foundations is the Western way of life of cattle and horses, and this is how the San Joaquin was built. And if it goes away, so will all the history that goes with it," said Martin.

With hands waving and many smiling faces, it's apparent residents of all ages enjoy this Western event. Organizers say the stampede is one of a few left in the country.

The Chowchilla Western Stampede kicks off the annual rodeo. It takes place at the Madera County Fairgrounds throughout the weekend.

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