Albert Hansen, Jr. – Committee Member
Albert Hansen Jr. was born in Salinas in 1927. His involvement with the rodeo began early when he showed in stock horse classes on the track. Hansen was born into a leadership legacy. His father, Albert C. Hansen Sr. was one of the first Directors of the California Rodeo. After graduating as Valedictorian from UC Davis, Hansen got to work at the rodeo. He served as Chairman of the Daily Horse Parade and became a Rodeo Director in 1951. Hansen also served as Chairman for the Rodeo Sponsor Committee, Future Planning Committee and Founder of the Fiesta Day Committee.
The most notable legacy of Hansen Jr. is the Hansen Pavilion, which was built in his name while he was president from 1988 to 1989. In 1990 Hansen was honored with the Gold Saddleman Award. His daughters Tina and Sally won the title of Hostess of the California Rodeo in the 1970s. When Al passed away in 1993, he was the longest serving Director of the Salinas Rodeo.
The Santos Family – Contestants
The Santos family tradition at the California Rodeo is four generations, and more than eight decades strong. Original patriarch Frank Santos Sr. made his mark with stockhorse-class wins over on the track before World War II. Son Frank Santos Jr. kicked off his seven-decade career at Salinas riding Santos Sr.-trained National Cow Horse Hall of Famer Dick to three-straight victories in the junior stockhorse class from 1950-52. Santos Jr. jumped from track to arena in 1955, as a high school junior, and made his mark against the living legends of that time while still in his teens—in the team roping event with his brother Russ. The 1974 California Rodeo all-around champ won his most recent Salinas buckle in the Gold Card Team Roping with Jack Roddy. The third generation of Santos-family contestants at Salinas includes Frank Jr.’s sons, Blaine and Wade. Fourth-generation Santoses competing today include Blaine’s daughter, Kayla, and Cal Poly Mustangs Lane and Taylor, who are the sons of Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Director of Communications Kendra Santos.
Rob Smets – Contestant/Personnel
Rob Smets was born only an hour and a half away from Salinas, in Palo Alto, California. As a kid he lived in Thailand, Singapore, Puerto Rico and Australia. In his teenage years his family moved to San Martin. Smets attended Palma High School in Salinas. While bull riding in high school rodeo, he thought the bullfighters did not protect the riders well enough. The bullfighters challenged him to be a better bullfighter and he was. Smets went on to be a premiere bullfighter for 19 years. Smets is the only 5-Time World Champion Bullfighter.
Smets’ history with the California Rodeo runs deep. The Salinas bullfight was dreamed up by Smets and Warren Wayland on a hotel napkin in Las Vegas during the NFR convention. Smets competed in the bullfights, winning the cherished “Salinas” buckle five times, and later went on to be a protection bull fighter in the arena for over ten years at the California Rodeo, known to the crowd as “The Kamikaze Kid”.
The Garcia Family – Supporters
Leslie (Les) and Henry Garcia were sons of the famed G.S. & Saturnina Garcia of Elko, Nevada, a well-established maker of fine saddles, bits and spurs. Les excelled at silver engraving and Henry loved leatherwork. In 1935, Les and Henry traveled to Salinas and began the Garcia Saddlery Company.
In 1938 Garcia Saddlery made their first Championship Trophy Saddles for the California Rodeo, they continued that tradition for the next 15 years. Les also made the silver champion buckles. For the Champion Stock Horse Class, Henry stamped a full working cow horse into the fender of the champion saddle. Henry and Angie’s two daughters, Anita (Skeeter) and Diana (Dee Dee) Garcia were accomplished horsewomen. In 1959, Anita won the title of Hostess of the California Rodeo. The daughters are long-time Rodeo volunteers. Dee Dee still participates on the Museum Committee, demonstrating the leatherwork craft to elementary school students who visit each spring and Skeeter works on the Security Committee each July.
US Army – Supporter
Many people who attended the California Rodeo back in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s fondly recall the wooden grandstands being filled with Service Men in their uniforms who were visiting from the nearby Fort Ord Military Base. The men were exuberant fans who cheered on the competitors and exhibitors, especially the trick riders and the sweethearts. The men would fill several open forty foot flatbed trailers, called troop haulers, and the procession would make its way from the East Garrison to Salinas, ready to enjoy a day of Rodeo action and pageantry. Soldiers also marched in the daily horse parade and Grand Entry for years. Although the troops no longer fill our stands, we honor those who sacrifice for our country during our Salute to Military Day annually on Saturday of the Rodeo. The California Rodeo Association is proud to honor the US Army as a member of our Hall of Fame; it’s a small token of our huge appreciation for their protection and service to our great Nation.