By Raiza Giorgi

As she looks back at this year’s Old Spanish Days Fiesta, Brandy Branquinho says that riding in her father’s restored wagon in the Historical Parade was one of the many highlights.

“I remember riding around on that wagon as a child with my father, and getting to ride in it — let alone see it again — is a memory I will cherish,” she said.

Branquinho and her husband John were named this year’s Honored Vaqueros at the 95th Fiesta Stock Horse Show and Rodeo, which ran from Aug. 1-4 at Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara.

The multigenerational ranching family from Los Alamos has spent many years participating in this time-honored event, and they love the camaraderie that comes with it.

The youngest of the Branquinhos, 3-year-old Bear, earned his first buckle in dummy roping at the rodeo. Photo by Lauren Maeve Photography

“For years we have looked up to all the past Vaqueros and are friends with many of them. We are so thankful to the rodeo committee for letting us be a part of this history,” she added.

Branquinho has a long history in the ranch lifestyle. She is a fifth-generation Californian, and her great-great-great-grandfather, José Francisco Ortega, was the first captain of El Presidio de Santa Bárbara, which was established in 1782. She grew up in Los Alamos with her parents, Nancy and Bill Luton.

John Branquinho is a third-generation Californian whose grandparents came to the Santa Maria Valley in the 1800s. He was raised in Garey, outside Santa Maria, where his parents, Ellinore and John Branquinho, raised cattle and farmed.

The Branquinhos met in the fall of 1969, were married in 1972 and have three sons — Tony (and his wife Sharla), Casey (and his wife Nicole) and Luke (and his wife Lindsay). The couple has nine grandchildren — Cersten, Kylee, Blake, Betty, Trinety Taylor, Cade, Jameson and Bear — and most of them competed and took home awards in this year’s rodeo. The littlest 3-year-old Bear, won his first competition ever, getting the buckle for dummy roping.

“We are so lucky to have our family be close and still live this lifestyle of running around the ranch and being in rodeos. As you go through the years, it’s also so fun to see all the kids we’ve known and taught grow up and bring their kids to the rodeo,” Branquinho said.