Every Fiesta, Old Spanish Days chooses someone to represent the role vaqueros, or Spanish cowboys, play in Santa Barbara history and culture. This year’s Honorary Vaquero is Jim Gofourth, an equestrian, hunter, businessman, and blacksmith.
Originally from Idaho, Gofourth has spent most of his life in Ventura County, and graduated from Santa Paula High School in 1956. Before retiring in 2002, he was the superintendent of his family’s two Ventura-based businesses, Reed Land Clearing and Adobe Company.
His main passion has always been horses, and since he trained his first one at 12 years old, he has ridden them for hunting, roping, shows, and just for fun. He has won several Fiesta competitions since the late 1970s, including victories in No. 5 Roping in 2005 with his grandson and Junior/Senior Roping with his granddaughter in 2007.
Gofourth lives on a small ranch in Santa Paula with Jan, his wife of 50 years. They have raised two daughters and have three grandchildren. In addition to caring for the family’s 10 horses, Gofourth has a shop on the ranch where he pursues his hobby of replicating traditional knives and 1790s-era long rifles.
Californian traditions, especially ones from the early Spanish, have always been important to Gofourth. When branding cattle, he prefers to use a rawhide riata, a rope used for hundreds of years by early Californians, rather than modern nylon ropes.
As the 2009 Honorary Vaquero, Jim Gofourth is looking forward to representing and preserving traditions like these at Fiesta. “My family is happy to be a part of it, and my grandchildren and daughters are excited,” he said. “We are all looking forward to it.”