2017 Grand Marshall

Pete Nelson, Sr.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAPete Nelson, Sr., was born in Potter Valley in 1946 to parents Ray and Lorna Nelson, the youngest son with three older brothers, Scott, Mike, and Bruce. His parents had moved to Potter Valley from Oregon, seeking employment. Ray found work as a ranch hand.  In later years Ray and Lorna owned and operated the local bar and restaurant. Pete grew up in Potter Valley, attending school and graduating in 1965. After graduation Pete stayed in Potter Valley and worked as a timber faller for San Hedrin Logging. In the early 1970s Pete joined the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office and became a resident deputy of Potter Valley. He was also a volunteer in the local fire department.

In 1974 the Potter Valley Private High School was in desperate need of funds to run the school, so Pete offered his property on Pine Avenue to hold the Potter Valley Spring Festival, a fundraiser for the school. Pete and a group of locals built an arena and held two rodeos that year, one on Memorial Day weekend and another on Labor Day weekend. The events were a great success and paved the way for many future Spring Festivals in Potter Valley. After a year at the Pine Avenue location the event was moved to the Brown Ranch on West Road. The Potter Valley Spring Festival has continued annually ever since, although the location moved to the center of town in 2010.

Pete has always loved the sport of rodeo, competing as a bareback bronc rider at most of the local rodeos around Lake and Mendocino counties. Pete volunteered annually at the Potter Valley Rodeo, helping kids climb onto the sheep or calves at the Junior Rodeo and turning the pigs loose at the animal scramble. After moving to Butte County in 1980 Pete continued to return annually to volunteer.


In 1992, he gave his newborn grandson Morgan his first horseback ride at the event.


With a downturn in the logging industry, Pete moved to Richvale, married his wife Chris, and became a rice farmer and truck driver. He also joined the Richvale Fire Department as a volunteer. Every July, Pete drove his 1946 Willy’s Jeep onto the Rubicon Trail and tended bar at Amos’ Place for the Jeepers Jamboree. In 2000 he bought a gravel truck, which he drove until his retirement in 2012. He now spends his time tending his garden and enjoying his beloved dachshunds. He continues to attend the Potter Valley rodeos, where his son Pete, Jr., and family are committee members. His granddaughter Caitie was Potter Valley Rodeo Queen in 2011 and his other granddaughter Jodie is competing for the title this year.

Pete and his wife want to thank the Rodeo Committee for giving him the honor of being Grand Marshal for his favorite community event. His father traveled this exact route as Grand Marshal a number of years ago.