Cliff Hinsche is this year’s Lifetime Pass recipient for the Williams Lake Stampede. (Angie Mindus photo)

Cliff Hinsche is this year’s Lifetime Pass recipient for the Williams Lake Stampede. (Angie Mindus photo)

Cliff Hinsche receives Williams Lake Stampede Lifetime Pass

Hinsche has been volunteering for Stampede since he was 15 years old

Every year the Williams Lake Stampede honours a person who has extensively contributed to the success, longevity and sustainability of the rodeo in their own unique way, and there’s no one who fits the bill better than Lifetime Pass recipient, Cliff Hinsche.

At 74 years old, Hinsche has ranched his entire life and volunteered for the Williams Lake Stampede just about as long.

Hinsche grew up south of Williams Lake on the family ranch at 141 Mile Ranch. When he was a teen his neighbour was former Stampede president Darwin Collins, who would pick him up on the way to town to volunteer at work bees leading up to the Stampede in the early 1960s.

“I had to catch a ride because I was only 15,” Hinsche recalls of when he first started volunteering for the Williams Lake Stampede.

Hinsche was just 13 when he purchased his first cattle and 18 when he bought his first piece of land. He married his childhood sweetheart Jo, who grew up on a ranch next to his, and together they raised two sons, Garrett and Ben, on 141 Mile Ranch and still calve out about 500 head of cattle every spring.

“I don’t know what else to do,” Hinsche said with a smile of continuing to ranch. He and Jo will also celebrate their 52nd wedding anniversary this summer.

Like clockwork every year, Hinsche has done “whatever needs to be done” to help prepare for the Williams Lake Stampede, such as fixing fences and painting, in the months leading up to the rodeo.

Except for the two years the Stampede was unable to take place due to the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, Hinsche has volunteered for every Stampede for the past almost 60 years.

“I wanted to do it continuously,” he said. “I don’t plan on quitting.”

Hinsche believes the Stampede is a great thing for Williams Lake.

“If you’re from Williams Lake, you’re from the Stampede town.”

Volunteering for the important event is one way he can connect with and give back to the community.

“They are a great bunch of people down there (at the Stampede Grounds) from all walks of life who volunteer. And if we all do a little we can accomplish a lot.”

Over the years Hinsche has served a term on the Stampede board of directors, and still has the cheque he received for placing in the team roping as a competitor with his roping partner Lenny LeBlanc in 1999. He and his family have also competed and won in the popular ranch challenge that follows the CPRA-sanctioned rodeos.

A few years ago he won the 50/50 draw worth $1,300 with a ticket he bought while watching the rodeo.

Hinsche also won a trip to Las Vegas from the BC Livestock Producers Co-Op Association a few years ago for one of his cattle being the one millionth one sold at the Williams Lake Stockyards.

“I thought that was pretty neat. You know, I’ve been pretty lucky doing the things I have done and lived the life I’ve lived and I’m still doing it, still to this day.”

Made famous for its Wild West feel in its early days, Hinsche said the Williams Lake Stampede and the facilities at the Stampede Grounds have grown a lot over the years.

“It’s something to be proud of, this set up down here. When you pull up at the top or drive by, it’s pretty nice. The Stampede, everybody’s part of it even if you don’t go to it. You live here, you’re part of the spin-off from all the businesses. What other town has something like this, of this size, it’s pretty neat. Everybody knows the Williams Lake Stampede, no matter where you go,” he said.

“It’s a great time. It’s almost like a holiday — when you meet old friends and make new ones.”

As this year’s Lifetime Pass recipient Hinsche will be brought out in a horse and wagon and introduced to rodeo fans before the rodeo.

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