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Agriculture and Food

'Our Big Comeback Event.' Poly Royal Rodeo Celebrates 80 Years of History in April

A man in a cowboy hat and a green vest rides a horse as it bucks in the air.
Written By AnnMarie Cornejo

The 80th annual Poly Royal Rodeo will commemorate eight decades of history this spring in the place where it all began: at the Cotton Rosser Rodeo Complex on campus.

The Poly Royal Rodeo Finals, open to the public, will be held at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 9, and will be followed by a concert by a headlining country music band, which will be announced soon.

“This is our big comeback event,” Coach Ben Londo said. “These students have been working hard behind the scenes for the last two years while COVID-19 precautions limited their ability to compete. Now, they get to shine.”

A special guest will also participate in this year’s Poly Royal Rodeo.

A woman in old fashioned dress rides a horse around a barrel in a black-and-white archival photo.
A woman participates in barrel racing at the Poly Royal Rodeo in 1967.

The Cal Poly Rodeo Team has been working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to fulfill the wish of 12-year-old Maddie Owens, of Winton, California, who at age 10 was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer. After treatment, surgery, and the fortunate circumstance of an early diagnosis, she is now ready to saddle back up and spend more time doing what she loves — riding horses.

With the help of Sierra Spratt, assistant coach and member of the Cal Poly Rodeo Team, Maddie was invited to practice on campus several times leading up to the big event. She will make a cameo appearance as barrel racer as a special guest of Cal Poly.

The Poly Royal Rodeo is the marquee event on campus during Cal Poly’s annual Open House. The event features the top collegiate rodeo athletes from around the West Coast who have advanced to the championship performance from the weekend’s earlier rounds.
Athletes will compete for a championship title in events such as barrel racing, team roping, breakaway roping, tie down roping, saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, bull riding and steer wrestling.

In recent years, the annual Poly Royal Rodeo offered two full nights of entertainment at the Spanos Stadium. However, a $3.2 million turf replacement project has temporarily closed the stadium — leading the event back to the campus rodeo grounds where it originated 80 years ago.

To accommodate the expected large crowds, a special ASI-sponsored student night has been added to the week’s offerings on Wednesday evening. The Saturday evening event is slated for 6:30 p.m. April 9. Tickets are $20 for children ages 2 to 12; and $40 for general admission. Admission is free for children under 2.

Tickets are now on sale and can be purchased at

All proceeds from the event will benefit the Cal Poly Rodeo Program.