August 13, 2011

Napa Cattle Stampede

 Santa Rosa cattle drive 
will try to avoid repeat of 1994 Napa stampede.

"When they die, we have a lot of them stuffed and mounted.”
By the time the 1994 stampede ended,
four people were under arrest,
several police cars were damaged
and the city of 75,000
was being slow-roasted
over the coals of public opinion.

“It's not that funny. They trucked in 25 longhorns, turned them loose and right away knew it was a mistake,” Washington journalist David Brinkley said in 1994 to a national television audience as he tried to stifle laughter about the event. 

Napa's experience with a cattle drive is testament to how things can go wrong when dozens of 1,600-pound bovines with long sharp horns are paraded through city streets.

Seventeen years later, about 50 longhorns will again tromp through Wine Country's urban range, herded along by professional cowboys and several dignitaries, including Sonoma County supervisors Shirlee Zane and Efren Carrillo.

Dorothy Salmon, who managed the Napa Town & County Fair from 1988 to 2000, recalled Friday that the idea for the cattle drive came from one of the fair's board members, who assured her that the cattle were tame.
He said they were like Hollywood cattle,”
But almost immediately things began going wrong. Several of the animals began chomping on shrubs outside Napa's City Hall before turning their
attention to the bank.

Dozens of animal rights protesters greeted the herd as it made its way down Second Street. Salmon said a protester swatted one of the animals, leading to a stampede that nearly trampled a woman who had thrown herself in the street in an act of defiance.

Diamond Jubilee Cattle Drive

For Sunday's cattle drive, the longhorns get moving at 10 a.m. in Santa Rosa east along 4th Street to E Street, then south on E Street to the parking lot on S. E Street and Bennett Valley Road.

Barricades will separate spectators from the hoofed animals, and police will close the streets to traffic as the herd moves along. Organizers of Sunday's cattle drive in downtown Santa Rosa say they expect the event to be fun and safe. The event is designed to boost excitement and ticket sales for the Sonoma County Fair.

“It's Americana and what the fair is all about,” fair manager Tawny Tesconi said Friday. She said numerous safety measures will be in place along the 2-mile route to protect animals and spectators. That includes closing some city streets, erecting barricades and having course monitors present to handle any emergencies.

Sonoma County supervisors Shirlee Zane and Efren Carrillo will participate in the drive. Zane, who taught horse-riding classes as a summer job in college, said she and Carrillo went riding Wednesday in Kenwood to brush up on their technique.

The cattle for Sunday's event are being supplied by Marysville's Flying U Rodeos, which also supplied steers for Napa's ill-fated cattle drive in 1994.
Owner Cotton Rosser, who turned 83 Friday, said he was not present in Napa for that event and he blames the problems that occurred there on “amateur cowboys” and “hippies.” (PETA  press release: “Forcing normally docile animals to pile terrified and confused through city streets is grossly unfair.”) He said he plans to be present on Sunday along with 15 of his professional riders.

But Rosser said his cattle are treated well and he noted that being herded through city streets beats going under the butcher's knife.

“They're treasured,” he said.
"When they die, 
we have a lot of them stuffed and mounted.”

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