Miss Gila River greets Pony Express riders as they promote Gilbert Rodeo Days

Kyle Knox

Gila River Indian News



Arizona’s historical Pony Express made its way through the Gila River Indian Community Friday, Nov. 15, stopping at the United States Post Office location in Sacaton. The event kicks off the annual Gilbert Rodeo Days festivities that culminate with the Rodeo Nov 22 - 24. The annual Pony Express ride is made possible by the Gilbert Promotional Corporation’s Gilbert Day’s Rodeo Committee.


The Pony Express Ride is an authentic recreation with riders relaying saddlebags full of mail on horseback from Gilbert to Florence, Ariz. The letters were from students at various elementary schools that outline the Gilbert area. They delivered to neighboring towns between Gilbert and Florence. This recreation has taken place since 1978, and the United States Postal Service also sanctions its mail carrier duties.


The route started on Gilbert Road and Hunt Highway before its first mail stop in Sacaton. It featured Gilbert Rodeo Queen Tatum Lance and Gilbert Rodeo Teen Queen Anna Butler, along with numerous members of the Gilbert Rodeo Day’s Committee.


Miss Gila River Tyler Owens welcomed and greeted the committee upon arrival and shared some time to learn about the historical significance of the Pony Express and wish the riders well upon their two-day journey. Owens was also presented with a gift in a specially designed bag commemorating the 2019 Pony Express Ride.   


Bobby Padilla, President of the Gilbert Days Rodeo Committee, said, “Students learned about the Pony Express and also how to write a letter. Those letters were collected, received a commemorative stamp, and are to be delivered anywhere between Gilbert and Florence.”


This year was the first year riding the trail for Anna Butler, Gilbert Rodeo Teen Queen. Butler said, “I’m super excited to be a part of the tradition since it’s something we don’t always have a chance to do every day.”

And for Gilbert Rodeo Queen Tatum Lance, this was her third year participating on the Pony Express Ride.


Lance said, “The Pony Express is super exciting because you get to see how mail used to travel, by horseback, instead of today where it’s all by trucks.” Butler has grown up participating during the Gilbert Rodeo Days and was happy to continue the Pony Express tradition.