Jamie Tanis, woman behind the Stampede Queen contestants

Behind the curls, the dresses, the crowns and the horses of the Williams Lake Stampede Queens there is one quiet organizer.

Tara Sprickerhoff

Tribune Staff Reporter

Behind the curls, the dresses, the crowns and the horses of the Williams Lake Stampede Queens there is one woman who quietly organizes the whole thing.

Perhaps you shouldn’t say ‘quietly.’ Jamie Tanis, the Williams Lake Stampede Association director holding the Queen’s portfolio is energetic and lively one-on-one, but she prefers to remain behind the scenes when it comes to organizing the Stampede Queen program.

“I’m a people person. I’m a one-on-one people person. I’m not big on talking in front of a big crowd. That’s not my thing,” Tanis says.

However, Tanis never shies away from meeting new people. One day she got lost trying to find Highway 20 from Stum Lake with a friend.

“We wound our way around and got out to civilization and there were some houses. It was like ‘eeny meeny miny mo, who’s the new friend we are going to meet today?’” she said.

“I think that comes from growing up in a town of 500 from the time that I was six till 18. You knew everybody and everybody knew you.”

Tanis hails from small-town Lava Hot Springs, Idaho. She met her husband, James, at the Multnomah School of the Bible in the “big city” of Portland, Ore.

“There were more people on the campus than I’d grown up with. It was culture shock,” she said.

After five years and a long distance relationship, the couple finally got married in 1985. They moved to Williams Lake the following year. James and his family are from the area; he grew up in Puntzi Lake and had lived both in Alexis Creek and in town.

“I was going to come with my husband for a year to get to know his family and the community. I’m still here,” Tanis said. “It’s been a long year.”

The couple now has two grown children, Sarah and Braden who grew up here.

“I came here and looked at Williams Lake and thought, it’s not too huge — I’m not a big city girl — but it’s not so small that you can’t access services locally and have your kids participate in schools,” she said.

Soon after arrival she started volunteering in the lakecity.

“When you’re in a community — this is my view —  you need to participate in the community and you need to give back. You need to volunteer. You need to find something that you are either passionate about to start with or something to develop a passion for. You might not know about the thing that you volunteer with but have a willingness to learn,” she said.

Tanis would be the first to tell you she knows “diddly squat” about horses or rodeo.

“Every year I’ve tried to learn something because when I started, and I still joke about it, I barely knew one end of a horse from another.”

When she started volunteering with the Stampede, she organized first aid for the stands. Not too many years later she was asked if she would let her name stand as a Stampede director with the Queen’s portfolio.

In her day job, Tanis works as a social worker with the ministry of children and families. She said she loves working with youth because she wants “to help people reach their full potential and help them do the best they can do.”

That is the same reason she loves working with the Stampede Queens and contestants.

“I’d rather help the girls muck out a barn than do the makeup and the hair and the gorgeous persona that they all portray so well, but I firmly believe that if you volunteer with youth you need to help them reach their full potential and everybody in our community contributes to the growth of that individual.

Taking on that portfolio was a good fit for me because it was with girls and helping them achieve their best. It’s been amazing. I just love watching the girls develop from when they become a contestant to the end, just before coronation,” Tanis said.

Throughout the summer, Tanis will be mainly organizing the girls’ schedules and budget, but as a treat to herself, she accompanies them on their trip to the Canadian Rodeo Finals in Edmonton.

“I decided that I needed to learn a little more about what life is like on the road for these girls,” she said.

“You get to learn a whole lot more about their personalities and the bobby pins that are flying around the room.”

In her spare time, Tanis enjoys getting outdoors, fishing, hiking and exploring the backroads of the area, even as she admits that directions are not her strong point. However, she forsees herself continuing to work with the Stampede Queen program for a long while yet.

“Youth are wonderful. We as adults can learn so much from them.”