New Book Chronicles Fortuna Rodeo History

Coming Soon!! The Fortuna Rodeo Association is excited to announce the upcoming publication of In and Around the Arena: The 100 Year History of the Fortuna Rodeo by local historians Susan O’Hara and Alex Service of the Fortuna Depot Museum. This book covers in detail every Fortuna Rodeo held, describing both the rodeos themselves and the community activities leading up to the big event. The book is also a history of Fortuna over the past 100 years, as seen through the lens of the annual rodeo. The authors have gathered more than 800 images to illustrate the story.

Highlights include images of the rodeo in the 1920s and a series of images taken by rodeo photographer DeVere Helfrich of the Fortuna Rodeo in 1941. Helfrich was known as the “Dean of Rodeo Photography” and his images capture the excitement and drama of the events as well as the beauty of the rodeo in the redwoods. Helfrich’s images are also used to illustrate the famous cowboys of the 1930s, 40s and 50s who competed in Fortuna. Many national champions were competitors at the Fortuna Rodeo including Clay Carr, Johnnie Schneider and Sonny Tureman. During this time, the rodeo was a both a professional and amateur event. Local riders such as Clarence Bugenig were also captured by Helfrich’s camera.

In 1955, the Fortuna Rodeo Association made the decision to become a strictly amateur rodeo, and fortunately for the creation of the book, local photographer Rudy Gillard began photo-documenting the rodeo, a tradition he continued into the 1980s. In addition, more than 50 community members contributed photos from their family collections to help tell the Fortuna Rodeo story. Other local image sources include the Fortuna Depot Museum, the Humboldt County Historical Society, the Clarke Historical Museum and Humboldt State University Library. The authors also used the Humboldt Beacon searchable digital archive at the Fortuna Depot Museum to research and describe Fortuna’s 100 years of rodeo.

Be sure to stop by the authors’ table at the rodeo this year for more information on the book and to add your name to the pre-order list for In and Around the Arena: The 100 Year History of the Fortuna Rodeo.
Check out "One Hundred Years of Fortuna Rodeo Firsts," by the authors HERE!

2019 Grand Marshall Walt Giacomini competes in the 1975 Fortuna Rodeo!