The Orange County Sheriff’s Posse puts on an annual rodeo at their arena on Highway 90. The dates for this year’s rodeo are July 20 and 21. For many years they had the second largest rodeo in Orange, second only to the Jaycee’s rodeo.

The Posse also used the arena as their practice arena for the drill team. The Orange County Sheriff’s Posse Drill Team has a reputation for being one of the finest drill teams in Texas. Over the nearly 60 years of its existence the Drill Team has traveled and performed in many rodeo venues in Texas including many years at the old Houston Fat Stock Show, now the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

Taking center stage in the Orange rodeos was the annual Jaycee rodeo held in the arena on Highway 105. The arena was the biggest event in Orange each summer, kicking off with a rodeo parade through downtown Orange.

Seating at the arena approached 2,000 seats and was sold out for each performance. The Jaycees were able to attract leading regional cowboys who competed on an amateur basis as well as cowboys who were members of the Rodeo Cowboys Association, now the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Prize money was always enough to fill the books with rough stock riders, ropers, bull doggers and barrel racers.

Some years there were even cutting horse contests included.

Every year the Jaycees brought in entertainment from “stage, screen and television.”

Western actor Rory Calhoun was a headliner. Before Steve McQueen became a major star, he was on television as Josh Randall, the “Bounty Hunter”. McQueen appeared at the rodeo; stayed at the Jack Tar Hotel and gave Sprad a near heart attack with the way he drove a boat Sprad made available for him to use while in Orange.

Lee Majors and John Smith from the “Big Valley” TV series appeared. Jimmy C. Newman performed his hit song “Alligator Man” in a yellow sequined suit with green alligators crawling up and down each arm and leg. Each year there was a headliner of similar stature.

Sadly for rodeo fans, those days are long gone. The rodeo producers have all passed away. Winfree Rodeo Company’s large pastures where they had rodeo stock for so many years is now home sites and a large RV park.

There were arenas in Bridge City, Vidor, Mauriceville and three in Orange. Nearly every Saturday night there was some sort of rodeo, barrel racing, or roping at one of the places. Laurence Winfree, Durwood Dorman, and Larkin Franklin, local rodeo producers, all stayed busy in Orange and on the road producing rodeos.

Tresmo Granger had one of the first arenas in Orange. It was located on Winfree Road, behind the Winfree Homestead. Many of the early Orange cowboys got their start at Granger’s arena. It went out of use in the 1950s.

The old rodeo arenas are all gone except for the arena on Highway 105.

When the Jaycees decided to stop producing the annual rodeo the arena was bought by the OCSP, who then sold their arena on Highway 90. Over the years the arena has been modified, repaired and remodeled. The OCSP is a dedicated group of men and women who are keeping rodeo and western tradition alive in Orange County.

Each summer around the third week in July they produce the annual two night rodeo. The rodeo still attracts some good amateur cowboys and cowgirls.

The rough stock events have changed over the years to the point that you seldom see any bareback or saddle bronc rides. It has gone to bull riding now, usually two sessions each night. The “pretty girls and fast horses” are still going strong, running the cloverleaf barrel patterns. Girls as young as six years old are beginning to barrel race, some on ponies; some on horses. It is still two good nights of rodeo action.

The OCSP has made some major improvements in the old arena. The seating has been reduced, because over the years attendance fell off to the point that the large bleachers were no longer needed. That’s OK; the Posse still makes money with the rodeo. The old announcer’s stand has been replaced with a nice one with plenty of room for everyone that needs to be there. All of the fences and light poles have been given a coat of bright orange paint. The back pens where the stock is held have been fine tuned to improve them.

The biggest and most appreciated thing that the OCSP has done to the arena was to revamp the arena and move the alley to the center, away from the left side where it had been for decades.

The ones who really appreciate this move are the barrel racers. For years they had to come in slow and move to the center and then kick their horse to start the run. Now they can enter the arena at a fast run and go straight into running their pattern. It is easier on the horse and rider and more exciting for the fans.

The six decade rodeo attracts over 2,500 fans each year and provided the Posse with the funding for their yearly projects. They have given scholarships to area youth for 17 years. Over the years this has amounted to over $52,000.

They make annual contributions to the Red Cross and Salvation Army, as well as providing manpower and horsepower to places like the North Early Learning Center, Library Day at Bridge City schools, churches and other places interested in Western heritage presentations. For the past several years they have made the arena available for the Little Cypress-Mauriceville Honeybears to hold the Bulls and Barrels money raising event.

You do not have to ride a horse, or even own a horse to become a member of the OCSP.

If you have an interest in keeping Western heritage alive in Orange and wish to be a part of the foremost organization that promotes it, you can become a member of the Posse. The best way to do it is to attend their rodeo and look for someone in the white shirt and orange vest. They will welcome you with open arms.