June 12-- Jun. 12--PLEASANTON -- The sight of cattle herded by bandana-clad cowboys and cowgirls on horseback through downtown Pleasanton in true western fashion may be no more after the Cattle Drive finishes its last ride this Friday.

This will be Pleasanton's third and potentially last Cattle Drive in recent years, where more than 170 Corriente cows are herded downtown by about 50 riders, offering a glimpse of Alameda County's agricultural past to a cheering crowd. The drive kicks off the Alameda County Fair, which is held in Pleasanton each year, and will officially open as the last cow is herded back to the fairgrounds. It also starts off the fair's Western Weekend, which features team roping events, sorting and pinning on Friday and Saturday.

Fair organizers say there has been nothing wrong with the Cattle Drive; in fact, the drive has been quite successful gathering the attention of fairgoers. It's also been great for foot traffic to downtown Pleasanton, said executive director of Pleasanton Downtown Association, Laura Olson.

"It's been a unique addition to the events downtown," she said. "We're definitely sad to see it go."

Restaurants last year, during the second annual drive, even began adjusting by adding special Cattle Drive menus, or opening earlier than usual for brunch or lunch to attract cattle-viewers. Some businesses also were given free fair tickets to hand out to customers that day, Olson said.

So, why stop it?

Veronica Knowlton, fair operations supervisor of the Alameda County Fair, said they're just looking for something new to bring to the fair next year. Nothing negative has happened, she said.

"We're just thinking we might need something bigger and better," Knowlton said. There is no indication of what that may be for next year's fair.

The drive may not be going away forever, but the fair will be taking a hiatus from it, at least for two or even five years, she said.

Olson said she has a feeling it will be back, since it was such a popular event.

Pleasanton has only two other parade-like events throughout the year -- its annual Hometown Holidays parade during the winter, and the Veterans Day parade.

But not all were pleased with past cattle drives. In its inaugural year in 2017, protesters from the Direct Action Everywhere animal-rights group were along the downtown route, and attempted to block the front of the parade, in front of the Alameda County Sheriff's color guard that marched with the parade.

In a tense moment, the cowboys and herd, headed by professional cowboy Russ Fields, were unable to stop, the cowboys shouting for the procession to keep moving. Cattle briefly began moving ahead of the dogs and cowboys, who were able to bring them back into formation. Eventually, Pleasanton police helped get the protesters out of the way to move the parade forward.

The animal rights group said they wanted to bring attention to violence against animals, such as toward animals who are used for food, entertainment or otherwise exploited. Protesters held signs that read things like "Until every animal is free," and "Animals are not ours to use."

Matt Johnson, spokesman for Direct Action Everywhere, said Tuesday that he is pleased to hear that this will be the last Cattle Drive.

"It's encouraging that animal exploitation is going out of style," Johnson said. "We don't have direct evidence that our actions led to this, but protests do work over the course of time, even if they're unpopular when they happen."

But fair organizers say the protests didn't have anything to do with halting the drives. The cattle come from Inderbitzen Ranch in Livermore, and Knowlton said they are the "professional athletes of their profession" used for team roping events.

"It's not good business to treat your animals poorly, and ethically it's not good," Knowlton said.

The Cattle Drive begins at 10:30 a.m. Friday at Rose Avenue, Division Street, then turns right on Del Valle Parkway and heads down Main Street. It will loop back to Bernal Avenue before returning to the fairgrounds. Main Street will be closed from 8:30 a.m. to noon. The fair will be offering free admission to the public until 3 p.m. on Friday, and participating downtown businesses will have free tickets for the public for other days. Go to www.alamedacountyfair.com for more information.


Alameda County Fair

When: June 14-July 7. (Closed Mondays and Tuesdays: June 17-18, 24-25, July 1-2)

Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily (except July 4, 11 a.m.-8 p.m.; go to www.alamedacountyfair.com for updates)

Where: Alameda County fairground, 4501 Pleasanton Ave. Pleasanton

Admission: Adults (13-61), $15; seniors (62+), $10; kids (6-12), $10; children under age 6 admitted free.

Parking: $10


(c)2019 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

Visit the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.) at www.eastbaytimes.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.