SYV Star Staff Report

Cattle rancher Nolan Williams shows his roping skills.
Photo contributed

The local cowboy tradition goes back more than a century, and a tradition of honoring those who have kept that spirit alive is in its 33rd year as the annual Vaquero Show and Sale takes place Nov. 10-12 at the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum.

This year’s recipient of the “Vaqueros of the Year” is the Cornelius and Williams family, who have created a name synonymous with the ranching way of life in the Santa Ynez Valley.

Glen Cornelius, grandfather of matriarch Nancy Williams, was a pioneer in the industry when he was a cattle buyer and traveled by train to buy and sell livestock.

Her father Raymand ran 80,000 head of cattle on ranches all around California and became a pilot so he could get to his cattle quickly.

He rented Rancho del Cielo, which became known as the Western White House when President Ronald Reagan bought the property in the mid-1970s. The Williams family helped take care of the president’s livestock.

Nancy Williams met her husband, Jerry Williams Sr., whose family was also in the cattle industry as well as sheep and farming, when they attended Cal Poly. Her husband was a member of the football team and among the few survivors of an infamous plane crash in 1960. He died later in an accident while working a bull.

Their son Jerry Williams Jr. and his mother run the family operation that runs hundreds of head of cattle all around the Central Coast. Their Williams Ranch and the signs for their “Flying V” brand dot the open land from Gaviota through the North County.

This year’s “Vaqueros of the Year” are the Cornelius and Williams family, who have created a name synonymous with the ranching way of life.
Photo contributed

“There’s nothing like this life, and I get to be with my family every day and teaching our next generation the things my father and father’s father taught me. My great-granddad was alive until I was 18 and he really impacted my life and shaped who I am as well,” said Jerry Williams Jr.

They recently were followed for nearly a year by a film crew making a documentary about the cowboy way of life called “Modern Cowboy,” a production of Dave Long and Andy Samarasena Films.

The Vaquero Show will be an action-packed weekend of entertainment and fun as artisans and collectors from across the United States will show their hand-crafted goods including saddles, bridles, bits and spurs, as well as Western art including original paintings and sculpture.

The Williams family owns several hundred head of cattle along the Central Coast and are always busy branding and working them.
Photo contributed

The weekend kicks off with a gala dinner and “pre-party” on Friday, Nov. 10, when the museum will honor the Williams families. Also being honored this year is the artistry of Ernie Morris and craftsmanship of Ray Sandoval.

Guests will enjoy appetizers, hosted bar, dinner, and live entertainment from Brad Carrol & Friends as well as the cowboy poetry of Dan Hess. Reservations are required.

The fun continues from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday with a vendor showcase and roping demonstrations throughout the day by nationally acclaimed clinicians Dwight Hill, Pat Puckett, Bruce Sandifer and Boone Campbell, plus the “Cowboy Campfire” beginning at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Guests will enjoy campfire dinner and dessert while listening to performances by local favorite Art Green and Rusty Richards from the Sons of the Pioneers, plus poetry by nationally recognized Dan Hess.

For more information about the Vaquero Show and Sale or to buy tickets, call 805-688-7889 or go to