Longtime cowboy Gerald Young honored at the Oakley Rodeo
Young is considered one of the founding members of the event
The Oakley Rodeo kicked off 87 years of rootin’-tootin’ fun on Thursday with a celebration for one of its founding members.
A mural for longtime cowboy Gerald Young was unveiled during the opening night to honor the 91-year-old who played a critical role in creating a rodeo on the East Side. Young, who has been the only official chair of the Oakley Rodeo since 1999, was also asked to continue representing the community as an honorary chair for life.
Oakley City Councilman Tom Smart said there are several murals in the indoor arena to recognize notable figures in the rodeo scene, but Young had been absent despite being recognized many times in the past. In 2019, Young was inducted into the Utah Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum Hall of Fame for his integral role in producing rodeos, ranching and more.
The Oakley Rodeo is a unique, old-time tradition that has become ingrained in the East Side and embodies its values of volunteerism, family and the local community. Young was exposed to the rodeo as a boy and never lost his love for the atmosphere, according to Smart. He later started his own production company called Young and Young Rodeo in the mid-1950s, which produced up to 40 events annually.
“There’s no better example than Gerald,” he said. “He’s a cowboy’s cowboy.”
Smart’s favorite story about Young centers around the Great Salt Lake flood season. In the early 1980s, Young acquired a lease for land on Antelope Island, which he wanted to use for cattle grazing. He acquired a river guide and created a large barge using three banana boats to ship over 800 cattle, 50 at a time, across 9 miles to the island. The account reflects Young’s leadership, hard work and determination.
Young is known in the rodeo world as a proud man, Smart said, and he’s part of the reason Oakley has become successful. In addition to the Oakley Rodeo, Young helped form the Rocky Mountain Rodeo Association and served on the Oakley Planning Commission as a Summit County Commissioner from 1979 to 1984.
The Oakley Rodeo began on Thursday and will run until Monday. Smart said the event has been sold out for months after tickets went on sale in October. The rodeo was scaled back in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic but was ramped up last year. This summer, there have been several improvements to provide a higher quality performance.
“It’s a patriotic, western tradition,” Smart said. “It’s exciting! It’s like watching the gladiators of today.”
While the governor touted state initiatives, members of the public questioned what Cox is doing to help with issues such as the labor shortage and affordable housing, open space, water and education.
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