A Word from Cotton Rosser

cotton-at-oakdale3 By Cotton Rosser

Just four short years ago, my good friend Frank Bogert and I worked on a rodeo together in Banning -- me as the producer and him as the announcer. It hardly seems possible that he's already been gone a couple of years.

I first met him during the time I was attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo around 1949 and would ride my motorcycle down to Palm Springs as part of our rodeo team. Little did I know at the time that I would end up spending the next 53 years in the rodeo business myself.

Palm Springs is a special place.

Even though I have worked with rodeos all over the country, including the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, the Houston Livestock Show and the Grand National Rodeo in San Francisco, the rodeo in Palm Springs always held a special place in my heart. And I was one of only two producers of it for the entire time it was held.

I spent my childhood dreaming of being a cowboy and living a cowboy life. As a small boy, in Long Beach, I wanted to be a cowboy. My mother could always find me where the horses and cowboys were. That dream has become a reality over the years and thanks to rodeo's supporters and fans, I continue to live the life of a “cowboy.”

The cowboy has long been the quintessential “American Idol.” His story started in the wild, untamed western lands of America's past. Dreamers, adventurers and those with the pioneering spirit were needed to tame the west. Many answered the call, often with a trusty steed as their partner and companion. The cowboy was America's past, and the rodeo cowboy is part of America's present — strong, independent, in charge of his own destiny.


Rodeo Producer- Cotton Rosser of Flying U

 

Cotton Rosser is a name that has become synonymous with quality rodeo production. After a ranch accident in 1956 abruptly ended a promising career as a rodeo contestant, Cotton purchased the Flying U Rodeo Company. For the past several decades, Cotton and his family have worked to make the Flying U one of the most successful stock contracting firms in professional rodeo. Cotton has long been known for his outstanding rodeo productions, including the flamboyant opening ceremonies presented at the National Finals Rodeo, the Houston Livestock Show and the Grand National Rodeo in San Francisco just to name a few. Rodeo is show business as far as he is concerned. According to Cotton, "You have to run the show, you can't let the show run you. If you don't keep the audience entertained they will go somewhere else."

Keeping his competition in mind helps Cotton's creative juices flow. He has been inspired in the past to bring such events to rodeo as Bull Poker, Roman Chariot Races, Bull Teeter-Totter and the "Wild Ride" - which has blown fans at the Red Bluff Round-Up away the past couple of years as some of the biggest names in bronc riding donned outrageous costumes and hopped aboard some of Flying U's best bucking horses.

Cotton was a friend of the late Mayor Frank M. Bogert of Palm Springs, and together they put on many rodeos over the years. It was Cotton's idea to name the new Palm Springs Rodeo and WestFest after the colorful cowboy, and thus the Frank Bogert Memorial Rodeo was born.

Cotton recognizes Gene Autry as the person who most influenced the showman in him. During the 30's, 40's and 50's stock contractors had a lot of class, silver saddles, matched horses and a flair for showmanship. Every cowboy rode in the grand entry during the heyday of rodeo in such places as Madison Square Garden in New York, Chicago, Houston, Fort Worth and Boston. Cotton has always tried to bring some of that pageantry and color back to rodeo.

In addition to their responsibilities with the Flying U, Cotton and his wife, Karin, own and operate Cotton's Cowboy Corral, a Marysville, CA western wear store. Both Cotton and Karin have pilot's licenses and Cotton has served on the PRCA Board of Directors.

The Rosser family lives a life that revolves around professional rodeo. The spirit and showmanship of the old west is alive and well in the form of Cotton Rosser. Life on the rodeo trail is not easy, but he manages to make a living doing what he loves...living the life of a cowboy!

The Flying U Rodeo is a big operation and it requires many family members and employees working together to produce the successful and entertaining rodeos.

I spent my childhood dreaming of being a cowboy and living a cowboy life. As a small boy, in Long Beach, CA, I wanted to be a cowboy. My mother could always find me where the horses and cowboys were. That dream has become a reality over the years and thanks to you, rodeo's supporters and fans, I continue to live the life of a "cowboy". The cowboy has long been the quintessential `American Idol'. His story started in the wild,untamed western lands of America's past. The nation was young and unsettled. Dreamers, adventurers and those with the pioneering spirit were needed to tame the west. Many answered the call, often with a trusty steed as their partner and companion.

 

The cowboy was America's past and the rodeo cowboy is part of America's present - strong, independent, in charge of his own destiny. My past, present and future have been made possible because of my own American dream. I love rodeo and I love presenting part of my dream to you with each performance. I love the patriotism, athleticism, competition, excitement and thrills that will accompany today's rodeo. Whether you are a first time attender or a seasoned veteran, I hope you will enjoy the show.


Cotton Rosser, General Manager
Flying U Rodeo Company

 

Upon Rosser's Induction into the Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2009

It's been more than a half-century since Cotton Rosser bought a small ranch on 40 Mile Road in Yuba County, but little did he know at the time that it would be the start of a storied career on the rodeo circuit.

Over the years, Rosser has received many accolades for the entertaining, colorful and patriotic rodeos put on by his Flying U Rodeo Company and this weekend, the local legend will be honored yet again when he is inducted into the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum Rodeo Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.

"I got into the rodeo business in '56 and have been going ever since," said Rosser, who bought his ranch in 1952 before opening Cotton's Cowboy Corral, a western apparel store in Marysville, in 1955. "It's provided for my whole family. I didn't get rich, but I've lived rich and I've got to live my dream. It's been a great life."

Raised in Long Beach, Rosser showed his entrepreneurial skills at the age of 9 when he used to clean out stalls in exchange for riding time at a local academy.

Rosser eventually broke into the sport as a member of the Cal State Poly rodeo team and was on his way to stardom before a debilitating ranch accident in 1956 left him with two broken legs.

However, the setback never slowed him down.

Unable to compete, Rosser was on the road just two months later judging rodeos from a wheelchair.

Since that time he has many received several awards and honors while producing rodeos at various venues throughout the country. He was the first to publish an annual rodeo program and in 1976 he was named the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Business Man of the Year.

His accomplishments didn't stop there.

In 1985 he was named Stock Contractor of the Year and in 1995 he was honored as the most colorful man in rodeo by the PRCA. Rosser received his biggest honor when was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame in 1997 and was honored yet again with the prestigious Ben Johnson Memorial Award in 2006.

Induction into the Hall of Fame is one of the top honors that can be bestowed on a rodeo cowboy or performers with inductees chosen annually by a vote of the Rodeo Historical Society membership. Only nine inductees will be recognized during this weekend's ceremony in Oklahoma City.

Other honorees include Chuck Henson of Tuscon, Ariz.; John J. Miller of Cave Creek, Ariz.; Harry Vold of Avondale, Col., and Florence Price Youree of Addington, Okla.

Cowboys Walter Alsbaugh, Joe Chase, Reg Kesler and Tom Tescher will each be inducted posthumously.

"I don't know how they came up with me, but it's quite an honor and I'm looking forward to it," Rosser said.

The one thing Rosser is not looking forward to, however, is the speech he has to give prior to the induction ceremony.

"It's not my cup of tea," Rosser joked. "I'll probably just tell them some old cowboy stories."

 

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