Grand marshals hope Coarsegold Rodeo lives forever

mvoorhis@sierrastar.comApril 29, 2014 

Because they were such a huge part of the Coarsegold Rodeo in the late 1980s and early 90s, the Sack family have been selected as Grand Marshals for the 62nd rodeo, to be held May 2-4 at Bohna Arena.

"Katrina and Jana Sack, along with their brother, Tom, have been a part of the rodeo for as long as I can remember," Pat Strimling, Coarsegold Rodeo Association treasurer said. "I've been involved since 1988, and they were part of it back then and continue to be the face of the rodeo today."

Katrina Sack-Templeton, 60, Jana Sack, 56, and older brother, Tom Sack, who would have turned 67 this year, moved to Coarsegold in 1986. It was because of their love of horses that they visited friend and ex-race horse trainer, Jerry Dove, of Ontario, who had relocated to the Mountain Area.

"We fell in love with Coarsegold," Jana said. "Our dad bought four parcels and we started Summit Oaks Farm, running a thoroughbred operation."

An integral part of this operation, Tom bred, foaled, raised, broke and provided the early training of many thoroughbred horses, five of which went on to win major races. When their father died in 1999, the operation was liquidated.

"We grew up around horses our entire lives," Katrina said. "We showed horses riding Western-style ... our first introduction to rodeos occurred when we moved here. We were immediately in awe of the bull-riding and bucking horses, and had never seen anything like that before ... we jumped at the chance to become involved."

Subsequently, Jana and Katrina worked the rodeo's royalty competition for 10 years. "We ran all three divisions," Katrina added, "... there were years when 60 girls competed."

Given his background as radio disc jockey in Santa Ana, Tom fell quite easily into the role of co-broadcaster. While Ted Dwyer was the main announcer, Tom announced the Junior Rodeo and Heritage Day — the kick-off for the rodeo — for the busloads of school children who came to watch horse-shoeing, arena demonstrations, or the making of candles in Old West settings.

He and Katrina were also part of the Coarsegold Round-up Association, which hosted the rodeo for years.

Tom was so integrated with Bohna Arena that the Junior Rodeo (which no longer exists) was renamed The Tom Sack Junior Memorial Rodeo following his death in 1995. Tom died from the same disease as his mother — Lupus Erythematosis, where the immune system fails to recognize itself and so, the body begins to destroy itself.

Prior to his death, Tom often commented that his time in Coarsegold were the happiest years of his life, and there are those who believe that this happiness prolonged that life just a bit.

"My brother loved that rodeo more than anything," Katrina emphasized. "If he were alive today, he would still want to be part of it. I'm honored to be selected and pleased my brother will receive recognition, even though he's no longer with us."

"It's an honor to be recognized because we were such a big part of the rodeo," Jana added. "What Katrina and I enjoyed most was coordinating the royalty competitions. And what Tom looked forward to most was announcing the events and rodeo every year."

From 1995 to 2004, Katrina owned and operated Sierra Saddlery in Oakhurst; she also showed reined cowhorses. Jana helped her out in the business, and worked in a variety of other area jobs. Now both Katrina and Jana work at The Pines in Bass Lake — Jana in banquets for two years; Katrina for the Pines Market for five, and as the manager for the past year.

"In the 90s, rodeos were a big thing — the 1980s movie Urban Cowboy brought them into the limelight and John Travolta made line dancing popular, but the economy has taken its toll," Katrina explained. "There were horses everywhere back then, many living in backyards. A bale of hay was less than $5, now it's $20. It didn't matter what queen contestants wore. Now they have to purchase fancy and pricey outfits to compete."

According to Jana, many things were different back then. The freeway stopped where Bullard is in Fresno. From there, it was a two-lane road, with the first stop sign located at Road 426 (Crane Valley Road) in Oakhurst. Buck and Laura Akers ran Buck's Saddle Shop, selling saddles to far-away destinations like Germany; after the rodeo, everyone would head for The Nugget (where Alfonsos is now); and the 'Welcome to Coarsegold' sign read 1,635.

What hasn't changed is the Sacks affection for the area or the rodeo.

"We love it here," Katrina said, "and this is still the best little hometown rodeo around. There just aren't many rodeos like this any more ... I hope it goes on forever."

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