There isn’t much that is truly special or different about the Yolo County Fairgrounds. Every year, the grounds host the same rodeos, the same events and the same “Fair”. The people in these parts try to act like the fair is something special or unique, but it’s really just a place where people can eat the same food, see the same things and “bump” into the same people year after year. For many Woodlanders, the fair is the most exciting thing that will happen to them all year. However, as they walk past the never changing exhibits, bump into the same “friends” who they won’t see again until next year and eat the same food items that their Great-Great-Great Grandfather probably ate, none of them probably realize that they are walking in the steps of giants.
I speak not of the “Native Woodlanders” who insist on having dirt roads named after them just because they lived, but of Hollywood giants; two of which were actually nominated for real Academy Awards(tm) while another actually won! (Though not for the movie whose production dragged them to Woodland way back in 1980.) Tucked in the back of the Yolo County Fairgrounds is the “Rodeo Arena” which no longer seems to host actual rodeos, but is currently used for the “Destruction Derby”, in which grown ups play bumper cars with real vehicles until only one car can still run. (That just screams classy, doesn’t it?) In any case, this “Rodeo Arena” has a small place in Hollywood history; it once hosted the filming of “Ruckus”, starring the previously referenced Oscar(tm) nominated actors Richard Farnsworth and Linda Blair, Oscar(tm) winner Ben Johnson as well as TV’s “Face” himself, Dirk Benedict.
In “Ruckus”, Dirk Benedict plays a Vietnam Veteran who drifts into town and stirs up the local yokels who round up a posse to hunt him down and harrass him. He gets taken in by Ms. Blair’s character, who proceeds to become his love interest. In one pivotal scene, Mr. Benedict’s character takes Ms. Blair and her son to a local fair. According to director Max Kleven’s DVD commentary, the production company had to pay to bring in a carnival for the shoot. Since we can safely assume that this was a low budget affair, they probably needed to make it appear like this was a massive county fair, but could only afford to rent enough rides and concession stands to fill a small area. Enter the magnificent “Rodeo Arena”, which appears to have been used solely to make the “Ruckus Fair” look like a bigger enterprise than it actually was. If you look closely enough while watching “Ruckus,” you will notice rows of bleachers surrounding this “fair”.
While I previously stated that it seems nobody here in Woodland remembers this film, some wonderful Internet visitors sent me information about getting the opportunity to play extras in the film, so it seems that not everyone forgot about the movie. As it turns out, while so much has changed since the movie was first filmed back in 1980, the Yolo County Fair and its “Rodeo Arena” are two places that have seen very little change. (Maybe they moved the Scrambler over a few spots, but otherwise, things remain much the same as before.) Since Mr. Kleven has stated that he came up with the basic storyline for “Ruckus” after visiting the Woodland area as part of the crew on another film, (Jiminy Crickets, we can only guess what that film might have been…. perhaps Danny Thomas Productions’ “Bloodsport”? ) it is only reasonable to assume that any real “Ruckus” fanatic would want to witness firsthand the sight of the trainwre- er, “film”.
So, anyone with a desire to witness “Ruckus” filming locations in all their glory would do well to head over to the Yolo County Fair and see something in the glorious “Rodeo Arena”. Perhaps you too will be inspired to write a movie about a backwoods town eager to run a poor Vietnam veteran out of town because he dared to ask for a raw hamburger.