Scottsdale history buffs and long-time residents know who Gerbacio "Harvey" Noriega is.
And even if you don’t, you’ve seen him before: He’s the cowboy riding the wild bronc pictured on the city of Scottsdale seal.
He’s also the man depicted on the mural splashed on the interior south wall of the Scottsdale Rodeo Museum – situated in the very building, the old Noriega Livery Stable, that Noriega called home until his death in 1998 at age 104.
The Scottsdale Rodeo Museum officially opened to the public on the day of the Parada del Sol Parade.
But owner of the museum and general manager of the Parada del Sol Rodeo, Dave Alford, has had his eye on the building for nine years.
“Guy Phillips, city councilman, was very instrumental in making this happen,” Alford said.
Phillips and Jim Thompson, city manager, visited Alford at his home, where they stumbled upon his barn and a trailer full of old Scottsdale memorabilia that had been collecting dust for 10 years.
“They were like, ‘We need the public needs to see the history. We're losing the Western thing,” Alford said.
And so, the idea for the Scottsdale Rodeo Museum was born.
On display in the free, volunteer-run museum are never-before-seen artifacts of Scottsdale’s rodeo history, including original Parada del Sol Rodeo posters, artwork by the likes of Master Artist Kenneth M. Freeman (once called the Rembrandt of Rodeo) and vintage rodeo magazines, programs and photographs dating back to the ‘50s.
Other items include old riding equipment and gear, including a 100-year-old roping saddle and saddles from world famous rodeo champion, like Jake Barns.
Alford plans to add even more historic saddles to the museum in the near future.
Some of the items, including the magazines, once belonged to Alford’s father, who passed away in 2011. But 90 percent of the collection, he said, include items Parada del Sol has kept over the years.
Since opening, Alford has had people from Scottsdale and beyond contact him regarding memorabilia they would like to donate to the museum.
“We've had great support from a lot of people have come and brought old pictures and paintings and stuff that we’re categorizing them and going through them and getting them put up,” he said.
Alford is not only the official museum’s docent; he’s also featured on the barn-wood walls custom built by him and his sons, J.W., Clayton and Cole.
Alford is a native to Scottsdale. He just so happened to be born on the same year the Parada del Sol Rodeo started, in 1953.
“I've never missed one,” he said. “My mom brought me [to the rodeo] in a little buggy.”
Alford has three goals with the museum: to preserve Scottsdale’s storied rodeo past, to display the artwork of said history, and to educate children and attendees of all ages “how the animals are raised and treated and all the rules and regulations for the animals.”
“There's a lot of history just in the art itself, but our main focus is Scottsdale, Parada del Sol, to keep that history alive,” he said.
Alford is in talks with the city to possibly host educational events in the adjacent outdoor space.
He said he would like to bring in students for roping demonstrations and meet-and-greets with rodeo animals, as well as hosting live music and other events.
Although Alford doesn’t anticipate hosting educational events until the fall, he is considering hosting live cowboy music and cowboy poetry during the summer, like open mic nights.
“Me and my boys and bunch of my friends play guitar and do some cowboy music and some cowboy poetry, and they want to make a little portable stage we can put up and take down,” he said. “There’s a lot of aspiring cowboy poetry. There are gatherings all over the country, and I want to make this one of those.”
The Scottsdale Rodeo Museum will be open during the 66th Annual Parada del Sol Rodeo, which takes place March 7-10 at WestWorld of Scottsdale.
This year’s rodeo will be bigger and better than ever, according to Alford.
The traditional, seven-event rodeo will include pro bull riding from the top 50 bull riders in the West, as well as three days of Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association-sanctioned rodeo.
On Saturday – military appreciation night – Parada and Airpower Foundation, in partnership with DriveTime and Antlift, will donate a Dodge RAM 1500 installed with an Antlift Lift System to a double-amputee military veteran. The name of the veteran has not been revealed.
Helicopters for Heroes will donate a Carlson Action Trackchair to one disabled veteran, 32-year-old Doc Jacobs.
Jacobs served eight years and two months in the United States Navy and was struck by an I.E.D. during his deployment in Ramadi, Iraq in 2006. He lost his left leg, three toes from his right foot and three partial fingers from his left hand.
Alford said the wheelchair cost about $30,000, and they are still working on garnering donations to help pay for it.
Two Medal of Honor recipients – Donald Ballard, a retired American colonel in the Kansas National Guard and former member of the United States Navy, and John Baca, a former United States Army soldier and a Vietnam War veteran – will be in attendance on Saturday as well.
Seven Purple Heart recipients will also attend the rodeo, and the Arizona Patriot Guard Riders will be greeting and escorting veterans upon arrival to WestWorld.
Lastly, Michael Elliott, an Army Golden Knight from the All Veterans Group, will skydive from 3,500 feet into WestWorld on Saturday to kick off military appreciation night.
Any profits made from rodeo ticket sales will go directly to charity.
Last year, Parada gave about $10,000 to other nonprofits and scholarships, and they gave about $80,000 last year in prize money. This year, they anticipate giving away around $100,000 in prize money.
“We're 100 percent nonprofit, and this is our biggest fundraiser. So. we try to keep enough to keep the lights on, but we give away the rest,” Alford said.
General admission bleacher seating is $5 for children and $10 for adults. Visit paradadelsol.net for more ticket options.
If You Go:
66th Annual Parada del Sol Rodeo
When: March 7-10
Where: WestWorld of Scottsdale, 16601 N. Pima Rd.
Tickets: $5 children, $10 adults for general admission bleacher seating; price varies for sectioned seats