If the Red Bluff (Calif.) Round-Up were a stage play, Haley DiDio Ray would be the costume crew.

The Red Bluff native has gathered and costumed the cowboys in the Wild Ride on the Sunday, April 17 performance for the past six years. 

She dreams up the characters and finds the costumes that the cowboys ride in the Wild Ride, held at the end of the Sunday, April 17 performance.

A cowboy rides in the Wild Ride at the Red Bluff Round-Up while dressed as The Cat in the Hat. A tradition at the Round-Up since 2000, cowboys wear a variety of costumes while competing in the saddle bronc riding. Photo by Crystal Amen.

The Wild Ride is unique to Red Bluff; it started in 2000 and consists of cowboys riding saddle broncs in a non-sanctioned event, while wearing costumes. And there are prizes, too: first place pays $3000 and a hand-tooled Cactus Saddle, with places paid down to fourth place. 

Ray volunteers her time, coming up with a list of characters that are relevant to fans. Past costumes have included cowboys dressed as Kim Kardashian, Carole Baskin (of Tiger King fame), Deadpool, a Marvel comics character, a Unicorn Frappuccino, and, a few years ago, Bruce Jenner and Kaitlin Jenner, both costumes at the same rodeo. 

The costumes “are a bit sassy at times but it’s all in fun,” Ray said.

This year, Ray has a slew of costumes ready to go: a Carrot (in honor of Easter weekend), crocodile hunter Steve Irwin, with a stuffed toy crocodile he can hold in his free hand, Mirabel, from the upcoming Disney movie Encanto, and more. “The Easter bunny will make an appearance, too,” she said. 

A cowboy has a firm grip on a tiger balloon as he rides dressed like Carole Baskin of Tiger King fame. Cowboys dressed in flamboyant costumes ride in the Wild Ride during the last performance of the Red Bluff Round-Up, this year April 17. Photo by Crystal Amen

She gathers costumes from a variety of places: online, at thrift stores, and from the public, who sometimes donate things. 

And Ray makes sure the music played during the ride correlates to the costume worn by the cowboy. During the “Kim Kardashian” ride last year, the song played was “Baby Got Back.” “I feel like the music is the ambience and sets the mood.” 

And theatrics can be part of the ride as well. Ray remembers one of her favorites: a cowboy dressed as Mary Poppins who carried an umbrella in his free hand and at the end of the ride, acted like he was getting blown away, just like in the movie.

The cowboys get into the mood as well. She provides plenty of baby powder (for the dust effect) and silly string, which is used abundantly by the cowboys and their friends behind the chutes.

“When the silly string comes out, it’s crazy,” Ray said. “I end up covered, everybody is covered, the judges are covered, and cowboys are chasing each other around with it. It’s a hoot.”

Ray is the fourth generation of her family to live in Red Bluff; she is a faithful Round-Up attendee and has held rodeo queen titles in the past. 

She loves her hometown rodeo and volunteering for it. 

A cowboy dressed as a banana participates in the Wild Ride at the 2021 Red Bluff Round-Up. The Wild Ride, unique to Red Bluff, is held at the end of the Sunday performance, this year on April 17. Photo by Crystal Amen.

“I just want to carry on the tradition that I grew up with,” she said. “The rodeo is a big part of my life and I want to continue the tradition and support it by helping dress up some cowboys in fun costumes and great lipstick. What more can I ask for? 

“It’s fabulous.” 

The 101st Red Bluff Round-Up takes place April 15-17 at the Tehama District Fairgrounds, with performances at 7 pm on Fri., April 15, 2:30 pm on Sat., April 16 and 1:30 pm on Sun., April17. Tickets range in price from $20-$40 and can be purchased online at RedBluffRoundup.com, at the Round-Up office, and at the gate. For more information, visit the website or call 530.527.1000.