Three Black cowboys at the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo. Photo by Gabriela Hasbun.

Stay Well Partners with the Longest-Running Black Rodeo in the US

The longest-running Black rodeo in the United States partnered with Stay Well this past weekend to offer free health resources and COVID-19 vaccinations in an effort to keep fans and families healthy for the 2023 Texas Connection Series. 

Founded in 1984 by entertainment leader, Lu Vason, the Bill-Pickett Invitational Rodeo (BPIR) was born out of a need for more Black representation in the sport after Vason attended the Wyoming Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo in 1977 and saw no Black cowboys. Following that experience, Vason made it his mission to educate individuals on the impact that African Americans have on the sport and development of the American west. Which is why he named the rodeo after Bill Pickett, the originator of bulldogging, a universal term for wrestling a steer to the ground by its horns.

A Living Legacy

Bill Pickett, a native of Texas, was one of the first Black entrepreneurs and rodeo riders from his hometown. In 1905, Pickett began riding professionally at rodeo shows as The Dusky Demon performing his specialty act, bulldogging. He was even featured in the 1921 silent film, The Bulldogger.

Much after his tragic death in 1932, Pickett was voted into Oklahoma City’s Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1921 as the first Black rodeo athlete to be honored and Fort Worth’s National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum in 1987 for his rodeo outfits that many found memorable.  

The rodeo’s founder Vason, a media impresario and marketing consultant, was also an innovative leader in special events marketing, credited with forming the Pointer Sisters and other various artists and events like the Aries Concerts and the Jazz Lives Series. But the invitational was his passion, as he stated in an interview that “Concerts only have financial rewards. The rodeo is educational, I’m trying to promote the culture of the Black West.”  

Almost 40 years later, Vason’s treasured legacy has kept these traditions alive, ushering in the next generation to preserve the sport of rodeo. The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo is now a profitable business with over 130,000 yearly spectators that gather to celebrate and honor Black cowboys and cowgirls around the country. For the past 30 years, the  Bill Pickett Memorial Scholarship Fund, has also helped youth develop their horsemanship while learning about the impact of Black cowboys and cowgirls.

Learn more about upcoming events and initiatives at