Marysville, CA (PRCA) – ProRodeo Hall of Fame stock contractor Cotton Rosser passed away June 22 at his home in Marysville, Calif. He was 93.
“I was doing my secretary stuff when they came in (and told me). I was doing sheets for the performance tonight (at the Reno Rodeo),” said Cindy Rosser, Cotton’s daughter. “I said, ‘Listen all you guys the rodeo goes on. It is terrible, but dad would want the rodeo to go on. It is about all the people in the seats. The show has to go on. He would want these people in Reno to be entertained and that they can’t wait to come back next year. That has been our motto in our family.'”
There was a tribute June 22 during the Reno Rodeo for her father.
“I would want people to remember my dad for the love he had for the sport (of rodeo) and entertaining the crowd,” Cindy said. “Everything to him was a show. A lot of people used to coin him as the P.T. Barnum of rodeo. You think about the things we have done, and we did the openings at the (NFR) for 10 years. We built all kinds of things. We did Wild West Shows. My dad also was a great contestant. He and mom bought a Western store and then they bought the Flying U in 1956 and rest was history.”
Cotton Rosser was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 1995. Rosser and his son, Reno, operated the Flying U Rodeo and Rosser Rodeo stock contracting companies based in Marysville, Calif. They produce about 50 rodeos a year. In 1985, Rosser was named PRCA Stock Contractor of the Year.
“I’m just the PR man now,” Cotton said with a chuckle back in 2019 to the ProRodeo Sports News. “I never imagined my rodeo career would be like this. I’m the richest guy in the world with memories and friends. I’ve loved every minute of the rodeo business and I would do it all over again. It has been a great experience.”
Cotton was named the 2019 Legend of ProRodeo.
Rosser is a pioneer in the rodeo industry, who was ahead of his time in developing the entertainment side of rodeo. Rosser received the PRCA Donita Barnes Contract Personnel Lifetime Achievement award in 2015.
“A lot of rodeos we have, we have had for 60 years, like the Cow Palace, Red Bluff (in California) and Reno (Nev.),” said Cotton, who served on the PRCA Board of Directors for many years. “They even put a statue up in Reno of me (in 2014). It just doesn’t get much better. I have raised a good family and I really tried to help rodeo. Some people say if you’ve seen one rodeo, you have seen them all, and I have always said I don’t think that’s quite true. Rodeo is the greatest sport in the world, and I’m glad to have been a part of it for the last 70 years.”
Cotton was still riding a horse into the arena up until this April, and he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“Rodeo is the only thing I know,” Cotton said. “It doesn’t get better than that when you ride into the arena and they play the national anthem and there is a full house.”
For more than 60 years, Rosser was known for his spectacular, flamboyant opening ceremonies at rodeos on the West Coast and for many years at the National Finals Rodeo.
He searched out ideas from sources as remote from the sport as ice shows and circuses, looking for that special something he can add to his productions.
The other side of Rosser is his history as a top cowboy, who started competing in all of rodeo’s standard events as a teenager and later as a member of his college rodeo team at Cal Poly University-San Luis Obispo. As a professional, he won buckles, saddles, and trophies.
Among his many titles, one of Rosser’s highlights was winning the all-around title at the 1951 Grand National Rodeo in San Francisco.
“My dad lived a great life and he used to say he had $1 million worth of friends,” Cindy said. “That was his famous saying. He rode last year at Reno, and if he was able to he would have ridden at Reno this year. My dad had a great life and enjoyed life. He was at Madison Square Garden and he won the Wild Horse Race in Cheyenne (Wyo.). He flew his airplane. He lived life to the fullest.”
Cindy is being inducted as a notable into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colo., July 16, and she acknowledged her dad’s passing will make that event more emotional.
“It was interesting this morning, I was sitting there before Slack and I was working on my speech,” Cindy said. “I was writing about my parents and rodeo and that was weird. It will be tough, but I will get through it.”
Cotton is survived by his wife, Karin, and children, sons, Lee, Brian, Reno, and daughters, Cindy and Katharine and lots of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
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