A preview of the 77th annual Poly Royal Rodeo
Growing up in the relatively quiet San Joaquin Valley town of Oakdale, it may have seemed like Colton Farquer was destined to become a professional cowboy.
After all, Oakdale has laid claim to the slogan “Cowboy Capital of the World,” a sentiment backed up by generations of success competing in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and dozens of world championship titles.
For the 22-year-old Farquer, a standout calf roper on the nationally recognized Cal Poly Rodeo team, the past four years in San Luis Obispo have served as preparation for the rigors of professional competition.
That training takes another step Friday and Saturday, when the 77th annual Poly Royal Rodeo returns to campus and will be held inside the 11,075-seat Alex G. Spanos Stadium for the first time in program history.
77th Annual Poly Royal Rodeo When: 7 p.m. Friday, 5:30 p.m. Saturday Where: Alex G. Spanos Stadium Tickets: Visit www.tickets.calpoly.edu
Talk about a professional atmosphere.
“I’ve been able to go to some bigger rodeos in the summertime,” Farquer said. “This is going to be the biggest rodeo that I’ve been to. I think it’s so amazing that Ben (Londo has) been able to put it together logistically. It’s going to be awesome. That’s all I can say.”
It’s a remarkable undertaking — particularly for Londo, the team’s head coach — and will more than double the seating capacity for one of the longest-running events at Cal Poly. And Farquer, who will graduate in the spring with a degree in bioresource and agricultural engineering, is just the latest in a long line of professional prospects that have come through the Cal Poly program.
Cal Poly participated in the first intercollegiate rodeo, held in Victorville in 1939, and has gone on to capture 44 national titles. The Mustangs have what is considered one of the longest-running and most decorated programs in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, the sanctioning body of college rodeo.
The NIRA is made up of 137 schools and universities and is divided into 11 regions.
Cal Poly competes in the West Coast Region along with Cuesta College, Feather River College, Fresno State, Lassen College, University of Las Vegas Nevada, University of Nevada Reno, West Hills College and Western Nevada College. Farquer is currently ranked No. 1 in the region and third nationally in tie-down roping.
Ten rodeos are held throughout the region each season, with participants competing in bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, tie-down roping, team roping and steer wrestling for men; and barrel racing, breakaway roping, goat tying and team roping for women.
When Farquer joined the team as a freshman, he said there were about 20 members on the roster, a noticeable increase from the previous year. Since then, thanks in large part to the hiring of Londo, the team has more than doubled in size to 56 and has dramatically improved its infrastructure.
Farquer said the team has installed new roping chutes and horse stalls, improved stock pens and redesigned the arena for a more fan-friendly experience.
“Having one of the best practice facilities in the nation has been the coolest change to see happen,” Farquer said. “Seeing the growth and knowing that rodeo is still a strong industry throughout all the age groups and that this is like the future of rodeo.”
With Londo spending the majority of his time focused on the transition to Spanos Stadium, the team has taken on more responsibility to keep the practice facility running smoothly.
It’s that type of year-round dedication that has allowed the program to expand under Londo, with the help of a $1 million endowment established in May 2016 by Mark and Jessie Milano to benefit the team in perpetuity. It was the largest donation in program history and increased its scholarship offerings to more than $80,000 this school year.
Londo also has helped develop Farquer with his firsthand knowledge, having graduated from Cal Poly as a two-time all-around national champion who became a PRCA rider in 2003.
Without Londo, it’s fair to wonder whether the move to an 11,000-seat venue could have come to fruition this quickly.
“Spanos Stadium is the next step to just get more recognition for our program and build off our legacy that this is one of the oldest rodeo programs in the nation,” Farquer said. “Just being able to get more support behind that and continue to build up our facility out here and make it No. 1.
“I think it will continue to grow in the future.”