Striving For the Drive at Western Bonanza 2017

By Caitlin Stanton
Junior, agricultural science major

At the beginning of fall quarter, 29 members of the Western Bonanza Leadership Team gathered in a classroom to begin the months-long process of planning the largest student-run livestock show in the nation. These individuals were hand-picked to plan all aspects of the show from entries to marketing and everything in between. Western Bonanza is student-run under supervision of advisor Hailey-Rose Switzer.


Western Bonanza started as a senior project in 1985 with a beef show. Today, there are four species being shown simultaneously in five rings, and Western Bonanza has become one of the most competitive jackpot shows in the West.

Throughout fall quarter, members of the leadership team begun the process of planning by choosing a theme, settling on “Striving For The Drive.” From there, awards were ordered, sponsors were contacted and entries were opened.

Once winter quarter began, planning was in full swing. More than 100 students enrolled in ASCI 212 (Livestock Show Management), many of them new to Western Bonanza or livestock shows in general. Students were divided into nine committees to support the show. Several workdays were planned and students found themselves at the fairgrounds constructing rings, moving panels and filling sandbags.


As animals filled the fairgrounds on February 16 and 17, exhibitors, parents and supporters arrived, ready to start the weekend. Exhibitors traveled from six states to attend the show, bringing some of the best livestock on the West Coast. On Friday night, a complimentary exhibitor dinner was served followed by clinics sponsored by ShowRite, SureChamp and Sullivan Supply/Stock Show U. Exhibitors also had the opportunity to participate in Sullivan Supply/Stock Show U’s Team Fitting Contest where they had 30 minutes to fit their cattle and compete for bragging rights and prizes.

On both Saturday and Sunday of Western Bonanza, exhibitors were on the grounds early, getting their animals ready for a long day of showing. The cattle show started at 8AM with other species following and most shows did not finish until early evening. While this made for a long day for the Western Bonanza team, many found it to be the most rewarding part. Junior agribusiness major and Awards Committee member Alex Castelanelli said, “handing exhibitors their awards and seeing the smiles on their faces was great.”

After champions were named and awards handed out, Cal Poly students remained to load trailers, take down stalls and clean the fairgrounds. “We were faced with many obstacles this year but the Western Bonanza team was able to pull off a great show” said General Manager Maddie Albiani.

Despite new challenges with the fairgrounds under construction and a powerful winter storm, Western Bonanza once again proved why junior livestock shows are worth the effort. The 33rd Western Bonanza is in the books with Learn by Doing at its best.

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