In 1934 the Victorville Chamber of Commerce began sponsoring annual rodeos. They were held on railroad right-of-way parallel to D Street where the Transportation Center and parking lot are today. Credit has been given to Stanley Snedigar as being one of the originators of the idea, and as being the key to its success.
The first rodeo was a small affair. The next year, in 1935, the event received only slight notice in the local paper, with a mention that the rodeo featured a rifle expert. But by 1936 word had spread about this wonderful rodeo with "non-professional" contestants, a description which gives the impression that mostly locals participated in the events. Attendance figures were given for the first time that year, an impressive 6,000. In 1937 attendance was up to 10,000, which included many prominent Hollywood personalities. Not too bad for a town with a population of about 2,000.
John Barry's Victor Press, new in town, gave the celebrities far better coverage than the more staid Victor Valley News-Herald of Clifford Moon. The Press reported the names of the stars that attended the rodeo in 1937, and at which guest ranches they were staying. Rex Bell, Clara Bow, Tex Ritter and Hopalong Cassidy, just to give a minuscule sampling of the names Barry listed, were all guests at the Ihmsen Ranch (later called the C Bar G).
Celebrities of the sporting community were there, too, including heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis. Joe was the crowd favorite, and while circulating around town, he heard of the Murray Ranch and decided to pay a visit.
A photography crew from Life Magazine was in town to cover the rodeo, but they figured that Joe Louis at a black-owned ranch was an even greater photo opportunity. As a result, six photos were published in the November 15, 1937, issue of the magazine, and Murray's Ranch got national publicity. About 10,000 people, nearly the entire rodeo crowd, were reported to have visited Joe at the ranch, and they turned the surrounding desert into a gigantic picnic ground.
After Joe's visit, circumstances at the ranch changed dramatically. Nolie and Lela's debt problems were over -- everybody got paid. All of the merchants in town who were swamped with business when Louis was there encouraged the Murrays in their endeavor to have an African-American dude ranch White ranchers in the vicinity promoted the ranch, treating it as a showcase.
The county offered to widen the two-mile road that ran across the desert to the ranch. And, according to Nolie's comments to a reporter years later, the Murrays themselves began promoting the place by putting a sign on their truck and parking it at present-day 7th and D Streets in Victorville, where Tricks and Tracks is located:
Remember when I used to ballyhoo our ranch here before the war with a big sign on our truck at the Hwy. 66 and Hwy. 18 turn-off in front of Gibson Lumber? The sign read, "Only two places to see: Paris and Murray's Overall Wearing Dude Ranch!"