Big Plans Underway to Renovate Kernville Rodeo Grounds

A scene from a rodeo at John E. McNally Arena in Kernville. PHOTO COURTESY ORION SANDERS


By Darla A. Baker, The Daily Independent

Big plans are underway for the rodeo grounds at the John E. McNally Arena located in the heart of Kernville.

“For a long time, there has only been one event out here at the rodeo grounds, and that was Whiskey Flat Days,” said Orion Sanders, president of the Kernville Chamber of Commerce.

A few years ago, Sanders said the board of directors began looking at the property the grounds were on, and realized the potential which lay hidden in the soil.

Said Sanders, “We wanted to use it more often, and use it as a tool to bring visitors to Kernville to patronize our members. That’s the reason why the rodeo grounds are here – to bring people to our town.”

In order to realize this dream, board members of the Kernville Chamber of Commerce, which owns the rodeo grounds, decided to make some upgrades to the arena since the grounds had fallen to the wayside for many years due to the fact there was only one event featured a year.

Said Sanders, “Once we started making some repairs and reaching out to other organizations, like the California High School Rodeo Association and the new Kern River Rodeo Association, they started renting the grounds and bringing some of their own events here as well.”


The bucking chutes were recently renovated at John E. McNally Arena. PHOTO COURTESY ORION SANDERS


But with more events comes the need for more repairs. Renovations already completed include the bucking chutes. Currently, the arena’s bleachers are getting all new wood and hardware.

Said Sanders of the 50-plus-year-old rodeo grounds, “They haven’t been repaired in a long, long time.”

In 2021, Sanders said the rodeo grounds hosted eight events, including two open rodeos, one held during Whiskey Flat Days, two events presented by the California High School Rodeo Association for District 9, four weekends of events presented by the Kern River Rodeo Association featuring seven rounds, and another event presented by the Chamber for the Fall Festival Rodeo.

Said Sanders, “With that many events, we are able to open up our annual arena sponsorships and get some businesses to participate.”

With the money raised through annual sponsorships, the Chamber was able to purchase new horse corrals and horse pens that are available for rentals during events.

With the extra monies raised during the additional events held last year, the Chamber was able to take that money and use it for even more repairs to the arena.

Said Sanders, “We are always looking for sponsorships, arena sponsorships specifically.”

In addition, the Chamber is currently looking for sponsorships for the upcoming Wild West Daze Rodeo to be held in coordination with Whiskey Flats Days to be held February 2022.

Said Sanders, “By bringing more rodeos and more events, we are expecting that the repairs will bring the spectators back and help create a better experience for the patrons.”

The Chamber is also looking to add on to their existing calendar of events featured each year.

A will-call gate has also been created to increase the flow of traffic.

The John E. McNally Arena is located near 467 Scodie Ave. For more information, visit the Kernville Chamber of Commerce Facebook page or visit


A scene from a rodeo at John E. McNally Arena in Kernville. PHOTO COURTESY ORION SANDERS