Did you know?
For a half-century, the life-sized form of cowboy star Casey
Tibbs sat above the former Hall’s Clothing store, located
downtown at Monterey and Sixth Streets. Straddling Warpaint,
his beloved bucking bronco, Tibbs appeared poised for action.
The scene was meant to memorialize both the famous cowboy
and the Gymkhana, a glorious horseshow that put Gilroy on
the rodeo map. The fiesta-like Western-style competition ran
yearly from 1930 until dwindling attendance closed it in 1956.
During its heyday, the Gilroy Roundup and Gymkhana was a
major event on the California Rodeo Circuit, featuring ropers,
riders and rodeo performers. The celebration was accompanied
by a parade featuring up to 1,000 horsemen and a cavalcade of
decorated floats and marching bands.
Written By Elizabeth Barrett
he youngest of ten children, Casey Duane Tibbs
was born on March 5, 1929 at his family’s ranch
on Mission Ridge in Stanley County, South Dakota,
located about 50 miles from Ft. Pierre. As a child,
he attended a rural school at nearby Orton and by age 14
he began breaking horses and trailing bucking stock for
several local ranchers. In one year he tamed sixty-three head.
Soon, his love of competition and horsemanship led him to
entering a local rodeo contest at Ft. Pierre. At the time, World
War II was raging and many cowboy competitors were away,
serving in the military. It seemed Casey’s time to shine had
come: he won four first-place awards at his first rodeo. From
there, he began entering local “brush rodeos,” earning both
prize money and gaining much-needed experience.
In 1944 at age 15, despite early struggles from horse-
thrown injuries, his skills were being honed to enter state-
wide rodeo contests. At the events, he observed the more
experienced cowboys and studied their skills. Before long, he
developed the expertise of “floating” a horse, using a method
of timing and balance rather than force, to stay on the
bucking bronco. From this period, Tibbs began his
pursuit of rodeo celebrity in earnest.
GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN
By the following year he held a variety of jobs to
stay financially afloat, working in a Wild West show in
Wisconsin, breaking horses on a South Dakota cattle ranch,
and through contacts, studying to become a professional
cowboy, to include the business of promotional and event-
staging skills that helped ensure his future successes. By age
19 Casey became the youngest rider in history to win the
national saddle-bronc world championship. He earned the
distinction from both the Rodeo Cowboys Association and
the International Rodeo Association.
Over the course of the next ten years, his honors included
nine world titles in saddle bronc riding, bareback riding
and all-around riding. He also won national bronc-riding
championships and scores of other awards at state and local
rodeo events. By 1951, when he was only 22 years old,
he was featured on the cover of LIFE magazine. By then
his flamboyant lifestyle encompassed not only his polished
showmanship at rodeo events, but also a lust for purple satin
shirts, embroidered chaps, hand-tailored suits, late night
parties, driving fast cars (usually Lincolns or Cadillacs), and
taking cross-country airplane flights to make it to multiple
competitions where he regularly outshone other contestants.