The first Saturday of May in Solvang would normally have hundreds of men on horseback parading through the streets of the town to Old Mission Santa Ines, but the outbreak of the COVID-19 Coronavirus means that riding group Rancheros Visitadores had to break with tradition by cancelling its annual trek.
This year’s trek would have been Rancheros’ 90th. However, once precautionary restrictions on group gatherings are lifted when the current health crisis abates, Rancheros will return to tradition. That means rather than rescheduling the event for some time later this year, it will treat the first weekend of May 2021 just as if it were this year’s event.
“It was to be our 90th trek, but next year will be our 90th. We’ll just put it off a year,” Rancheros general manager J.B. Balch told News-Press.
This year’s parade was expected to include approximately 900 riders from across the United States and in some cases from foreign countries such as Australia and Britain. The proposition of bringing so many horseback riders together in the Danish town at a time when social distancing measures started going into full swing was simply something that couldn’t be done. Therefore, the organization decided to cancel its event on March 12.
“We made a determination that it’s a risk we couldn’t take,” Mr. Balch said.
While Rancheros Visitadores is sticking with its tradition and waiting until May of next year to do its parade, putting off the trek until 2021 is also due to the fact that an event of this size can’t just be thrown together the moment restrictions are lifted and large events again given the green light.
“There’s no way with the number of people and animals that we can throw something together,” Mr. Balch said.
Just like last year’s event, the 90th trek would have had its hundreds of participants riding up Alisal Road dressed in pink shirts in support of breast cancer awareness, a cause for which the event raises money. Last year, Rancheros Visitadores’ parade raised an aggregate of $1.3 million dollars for cancer research at the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center.
Even though this year’s parade would have marked nine decades of Rancheros riding through Solvang to the Old Mission, Mr. Balch said the group didn’t plan for this year’s ride to commemorate the anniversary with pomp and circumstance beyond what Rancheros Visitadores usually does. Even now that the event has been delayed to the same time next year, the manager said that the event will proceed just as it would have hadn’t it been cancelled. As he sees it, the event doesn’t need much embellishment.
“The whole ride is pretty special so at this point, I’m sure we’d be doing what we do every year, which is the trail rides and the parades to the mission,” Mr. Balch stated.
Despite his matter of fact acceptance of the situation and his view that the parade is still the 90th be it held this year or next year, Mr. Balch did express some regret that Rancheros’ year’s worth of work on the event won’t be materializing. The fact that it had to be shut down so close to the event’s date adds to the disappointment.
“We work all year to put the ride together and to have to cancel it shortly before it’s supposed to happen is very disappointing,” he said.