During the Spanish and Mexican colonial period, a special breed of horseman rode the hills and valleys of cattle ranchos, rounding up strays and driving the herds in a unique style that blended classic European horsemanship with the tough raw-leather style of the frontier.

Although the vaqueros eventually gave way to the even rougher-riding American cowboys, their spirit still lives on in events like the 33rd annual Vaquero Show & Sale this weekend in Santa Ynez.

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On Saturday, sporting the distinctive historical style of apparel and saddles, 21st century riders Pat Puckett, Boone Campbell, Bruce Sandifer and nationally recognized Dwight Hill staged a demonstration of the riding and roping skills that made vaqueros the elite among the ranch hands in 19th century Alta California.

The demonstration was just one of the attractions at the three-day event, presented by the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum, that also included more than 40 vendors offering everything from artworks and handmade jewelry to western clothing and riding tack, food by Cowboy Flavor, drinks and, Saturday evening, the Cowboy Campfire, where a smoky stew was served up against a musical backdrop by Art Green and special guest Rusty Richards from the Sons of the Pioneers with his son along with word pictures painted by cowboy poet Dan Hess.

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Mike