After a year-long hiatus, the Williams Lake Stampede Royalty program is preparing to crown a new Stampede Queen for 2020.
A popular Stampede tradition with a 77-year-long history, the Stampede Queen’s throne was left vacant since the 2019 Stampede due to a lack of candidates for a proper competition to take place. Now though, royalty program director Patricia ‘Patti’ Gerhardi is pleased to be accepting applications once more for the program, which has been renewed with a few new changes.
Gerhardi has been running the program for the past three years in large part due to the “fabulous testimonials” she reads and hears from Stampede Queen alumni. Hearing what the program has done for them and the positive differences its made in each past queen’s life is something that inspires Gerhardi and makes her want to work hard to provide that experience to a new generation of Stampede Queens.
“It’s a life-changing program. The young ladies who participate gain so many skills and learn so much about themselves and are truly loved by our community and beyond,” Gerhardi said.
In addition to becoming an active member of the lakecity community and the Williams Lake Stampede Association, Williams Lake Stampede Queens get to attend other rodeos across B.C., Western Canada and even Washington State representing their hometown.
Currently, Gerhardi added, the Williams Lake Stampede Royalty program is the only one of its kind at the professional level in B.C., making it all the more special.
The program in 2020 will be seeing a few big changes, Gerhardi said, starting with the fact that horsemanship will now be the most valuable category prospective queens are judged on. It will be worth a full 50 per cent of the points awarded during the competition, up from 30 per cent last year.
They are also introducing a pre-qualification clause before an applicant can even be considered to become a contestant in the program. Gerhardi said that keeping with the new scoring system, they’ll be holding an event at Eagle View Equestrian Centre where applicants will have to show their horsemanship skills and earn their contestant status.
Taking part in this will also give contestants school credit for grades 10 to 12.
Rodeo knowledge, knowledge of the Williams Lake Stampede and the lakecity’s history, poise and personality and speechcraft will also be important categories the contestants will be judged upon. For each category, the girls will receive special training from experts leading up to the contest.
“What they’ll come out of this program with this year is great confidence in their horsemanship skills, their public speaking and knowledge of rodeo and Williams Lake,” Gerhardi said.
Currently, she’s accepted three applications for the program but is ready and eager to receive more over the next month. Prospective applicants must be between the ages of 16 and 23, be from the lakecity or the wider Cariboo area and be ready to make a substantial time commitment until the next Stampede Queen is crowned.
They can sign up by checking out the Williams Lake Stampede Royalty Program’s Facebook page and messaging them for an e-mail to send the application to. Applications will be accepted until March 25, Gerhardi said.
Once the applicants have become contestants, Gerhardi said they’ll be introduced at a fashion show in the spring that doubles as a fundraiser for the program. Dates will be announced once they have at least three qualified contestants ready to compete against one another.
“If you’re interested in building your own confidence, if you’re passionate about the sport of rodeo and the community of Williams Lake then this is exactly the opportunity for you.”