Visiting the legendary Cow Palace is a bucket list item for any horse person.
When Cotton Rosser asks if you want to see the ticket office at the Cow Palace in Daly City, San Francisco, you say yes. On a recent trip to cover the Grand National Livestock Expo, Horse Show & Rodeo, a chance run-in with the iconic rodeo livestock contractor led to seeing some of the most notable names in Hollywood and the rodeo world in rare form.
Rosser and I rode in his golf cart around the grounds and through the crowd to the ticket office. Inside, rock and roll greats like Elvis Presley, Huey Lewis, Bing Crosby and Neil Diamond had autographed the wood-paneled wall. In it’s heyday the Cow Palace was a must-stop for musical entertainers. It also used to be the last qualifying stop for those chasing the National Finals Rodeo dream.
“There used to be a bar at the far end of the coliseum,” says Cindy Rosser, Cotton’s daughter. The Rossers’ Flying U Rodeo Company has provided stock for the Grand National Rodeo since the late 1950s. “On the last night, you used to see some guys throwing their hats down and cussing, and others throwing their hats in the air and buying rounds for everyone [based on whether or not they qualified]. It was an emotional stop.”
My gaze caught the names of Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association hall of famers like Larry Mahan (eight championships, including six all-around champion titles); Tom Ferguson (seven championships, including one all-around title); and of course, Cotton Rosser (ProRodeo Hall of Fame stock contractor).
The late Western artist David Humphreys Miller, most known for his 72 portraits of the survivors of the Battle at Little Big Horn, is also in the mix. It was overwhelming to be standing where such talented people also stood years before, and I know there are several names I didn’t catch.
Life gets busy, and schedules consistently book up. But the Cow Palace remains, and it needs to be a must-see for any horse person. The craziness of San Francisco may deter rural folks, but a drive to the bay to see the grounds will not disappoint. How does the saying go? “Stop and see the signatures!” Yes, I think that’s it.