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August 30, 1992|Kathleen Moloney

While Melrose shoppers don the latest in cowboy cool, Malibu's historic rodeo ring is heading off into the sunset. In a classic case of development versus tradition, the Trancas Riders and Ropers Club was recently given notice to vacate the show ring it has called home for more than 40 years. Just off Pacific Coast Highway 10 miles north of Pepperdine, the ring is the last bastion of cowboy culture at the seashore.

"When we started doing rodeos and Western gymkhanas, the club had about 100 members," says 72-year-old Millie Decker, a former president of the group and a second-generation Malibu resident. "I remember sitting in the stands watching my parents introduce Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. This ring was the place to be on a Saturday night for everybody in Malibu."

But John Perenchio, vice president of the Malibu Bay Company, which owns the parcel and is one of the largest landowners in the area, takes a less sentimental view. "I'm only a recreational rider, and I've never been a member of this or any horse club," he says. "We are simply exercising our rights as property owners to use the land. We plan on developing the parcel in the future." There are no specific plans as yet, he adds.

Millie's daughter, Bonnie Mandeville Decker, the group's president, didn't take kindly to Perenchio's eviction notice. "This two-paragraph letter . . . just came without warning. I'd spoken with him on the telephone about the road to the arena being damaged in the spring rains. He said it was fine to fix it. He sounded like we were going to get to stay there a long time."

Decker, 40, believes the old chaparral just ain't what it used to be. "Most of the people I grew up with can't remember Malibu without that arena," she says. "It feels like they're pulling old Malibu out by the roots."

In October, Decker and the current 280 members, including Katharine Ross, Sam Elliott and Eddie Albert Jr., will blaze a trail to the new Malibu Equestrian Center in Malibu Park. Just to prove there's no hard feelings, they've asked Perenchio to help judge the annual Shrimp Show, an equestrian event open only to riders under 12.

Though the invitation puzzled him at first, "I'm definitely going to do it," Perenchio says, "now that I know what a Shrimp Show is."

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