Horned Toad Derby • Coalinga Chamber of Commerce’s Cornerstone

For those who are not local, it’s HORNED TOAD. Not any other derivation of the name. Back ‘in the day’ there were actual gaming windows set up where bets could be taken and those wagers paid off. Things got a little murky in the 80’s and the upshot was: no more gambling. That may be so, but the long honored races still take place with winners receiving token prizes rather than cash benefits from their wagers at a window.

Horned Toad Derby usually presents the ‘crowning of Derby Royalty’ on Friday night. Then those winners ride in the parade on Saturday morning along with entrants from across the valley.

With that, the Derby is officially opened for business. There are vendors of all sorts, food trucks, and performers who take the stage and throw out a good performance. The derby runs from Thursday afternoon until Monday. On Mondays, the derby is winding down, so there are alternative activities for the die-hard fans who have come out to soak up the last moments of derby. There are water wars Monday morning. Teams buy into the competition and use fire hoses to propel a keg suspended between two poles. It’s quite the show, and everyone gets a little wet. 

Derby Postponed But Held On July 4

For the second year running, there was no Derby on memorial Day weekend. It was a low-key weekend in Coalinga although several events were held, as usual. The Garrison Flag was raised at sunrise by a small fleet of volunteers at Veteran’s Triangle. Later that day, the flag was also lowered to a solemn ceremony. Volunteers also placed flags on graves of veterans at Pleasant Valley Cemetery as well. 

Statewide public health requirements and county restrictions were the reason for the postponement. Hopefully, next year will see a more typical atmosphere for California. 
Coalinga celebrated Horned Toad Derby on Friday, July 2 instead, and many of the regular events took place. There were no toad races, but there was a crowning of derby royalty, and a couple of bands performed. The beer garden was on full throttle and some vendors were on site along with several Food Trucks. The Chamber of Commerce hopes to produce Derby next year at the regular time unless the Public Health once again puts the kibosh on it.