More than seven hundred “Rancheros Visitadores” rode into beautiful, sunny Solvang Saturday afternoon, parading up Alisal Road to Mission Santa Ines. This year the “Visiting Ranchers” rode to support Santa Barbara Cancer Center research and support services, and as a sign of their support, they wore pink western shirts. The “Visiting Ranchers” then assembled at the Mission for a blessing of the horses and riders.
This tradition began in 1930 as a reenactment of the old west in California when ranchers went on cattle drives to make sales at the Mission. On their way home, the riders visited festivals, rodeos and other ranches. Some past riders have included President Ronald Reagan, Bob Hope and Walt Disney. In recent years riders from other states and countries ride along with the California riders. Following the parade and blessing, the all-male group rides 30 miles to Janeway Camp for private events that include shooting skills and other western lore.
On the Mission grounds the riders gathered in the meadow bordering Mission Drive where Rev. Gerald Barron blessed the riders and horses. The “Rancheros Visitadores,” in a campaign called Tough Enough to Wear Pink partnered with Wrangler, presented a check for forty thousand dollars to Rob Dunton, Director of Development for the Santa Barbara Cancer Center. Dunton told me Steve Benito’s wife was the inspiration for this benefit. Money at the Cancer Center is used for breast cancer care and awareness, clinical research, and wellness counseling and other programs. These programs are available to all breast cancer patients in our community, according to the Solvang Conference and Visitors Bureau, regardless of where they receive treatment or their ability to pay. The crowd of hundreds were all smiling, waving, and having their pictures taken as they wished the “Rancheros” a safe journey as they rode back down to the river bed.
Story By Mark McDonald