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Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

Lane Frost Clovis Sculpture Honors Love of Rodeo

Mar 30, 2019 11:00AM ● By Melissa Mendonca

8 Seconds

April 2019
Story by Melissa Mendonca 
Photos courtesy of Clovis Rodeo Association

AT THE ENTRANCE to the Clovis Rodeo grounds, a massive bronze statue greets visitors with a reminder of one of the sport’s most enduring legacies, the Challenge of Champions. It’s the story of Lane Frost, a gregarious and beloved World Champion bull rider, and Red Rock, a legendary bucking bull unridden in 309 attempts until put to the challenge in a series of seven exhibition rides with the young cowboy.

Held in 1988, the Clovis Rodeo was the second stop on the Challenge of the Champions circuit, and one of three in which Red Rock prevailed. It’s a story embellished by Hollywood in the feature film “8 Seconds” and memorialized in bronze at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo grounds.

The Clovis sculpture, however, is a story of the local love for rodeo, tradition and commitment to the sport that makes 2019 the 105th year of rodeo in the city. Dedicated in 2014, the statue marked the rodeo’s centennial year, and was built to last well into the next 100 years as a tribute to the rider and his bull and the spirit of the West in Clovis.

“Lane Frost was the kind of person that had time for anybody,” says Vince Genco, a Clovis Rodeo Director who witnessed the Challenge. “He was one of the greatest ambassadors for rodeo there ever was and it’s just a real shame he had to leave us so soon.” Frost was killed in 1989 by a different bull in Cheyenne at age 25.

Of the decision to include the Clovis Rodeo in the Challenge of the Champions, Genco says, “We knew it was a big deal, but we didn’t know how big of a deal it was at the time.” Frost went on from Clovis, the second stop after the Red Bluff Round-Up, which was Red Rock’s hometown rodeo, to be ridden for the first time at the Redding Rodeo. He would best Red Rock three more times and emerge the winner of the challenge.

Bronze artist Jim Stuckenberg, a Fresno State graduate, was chosen to create the sculpture. “It’s unbelievable how much detail he put into it,” says Genco, who says he visited the foundry in Paso Robles at least 10 times while the sculpture was in production. “They were cutting the head off the bull to cast it and he was there putting more details into the hide. You can see the plaid on Lane’s shirt – that’s how much detail is in his work.”

Of course, an endeavor as big as a 14-foot-tall, 2,000-pound bronze sculpture requires a commitment of time, organization and money not typical of an average rodeo year. It’s with considerable pride that Genco says, “We commissioned this one ourselves. We paid for it ourselves. We were adamant about getting it done.” While the statue now stands on city land, it was paid for entirely through fundraising efforts by the rodeo committee, which commissioned 50 miniatures of the bronze that were sold to finance the larger.

The Clovis Rodeo recently purchased the plot of land in front of the statute and will be renovating the area for ease of traffic to both cars and pedestrians, and to showcase the art in a better setting. The sculpture is visited year-round, with people taking special stops on road trips to take photos. “There’s people there all the time looking at it,” says Genco. “It’s our identity. It really is. We’re very proud of it.”

This month is a particularly good time to see the sculpture, as it’s time for the annual Clovis Rodeo. “We have something happening every weekend in April,” adds Genco. The grounds will host a special steer wrestling event with the family of John W. Jones, a Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame inductee, using larger steers of the size wrestled during Jones’ career. Actor Jim Pickens hosts a charity roping event, and the Professional Bull Riders will buck, all in advance of the Clovis Rodeo itself, a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association-sanctioned event.

“This year we’re also bringing in more stock contractors. We’re bringing the best horses from more people so it’s more even and everyone has a chance to win. We’re also going to have some recruits inducted into the military during the opening ceremony,” says Genco. “We try to make it all happen in three hours and we push a lot of stuff into those three hours. We’re the second largest rodeo in California behind Salinas.”

From fine art to action-packed rides of bucking bulls and broncs, the Clovis Rodeo grounds offers something to do all month. It’s a place that honors the history of rodeo while keeping up with the times. “The business is changing,” says Genco, “and we’re trying to change with it.” •

105th Clovis Rodeo • April 25-28 •