DENVER — The MLK Jr. African-American Heritage Rodeo of Champions will honor the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday evening in Denver. It is part of the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, which started in 1984.
The Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo was created by Lu Vason to showcase the cultural past of the Black cowboy. It was named after Bill Pickett, who was born in 1870, and invented what we know as steer wrestling.
“We've been all over the country. And that was Lu's way of introducing Black cowboys and Black cowgirls to the American public," said Maurice Wade, who participated in the first Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo. “It is fitting for us to do a rodeo that honors a legend such as Martin Luther King Jr., who believed in peace and love.”
Wade said he took up the sport of rodeo after he returned from Vietnam. He's been doing it ever since, and will be participating in Monday's rodeo.
"It is for us to educate and teach people what the real American West was really like... it was one of the most integrated professions," Wade said. “Folks come up to us and say, I never realized that there was a Black cowboy, even today, and this rodeo has been going on for 37 years now.”
Wade said a trip to the Black American West Museum and Heritage Center is always worth it.
The MLK Jr. Rodeo of Champions will take place on Monday, January 17 at 6 p.m. It will be held at the Denver Coliseum.