Ultimate Arty, also known as Willie Dye, has fond memories of the Williams Lake Stampede parade and was determined not to let the tradition end. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Ultimate Arty, also known as Willie Dye, has fond memories of the Williams Lake Stampede parade and was determined not to let the tradition end. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

OUR HOMETOWN: Arty takes reins on Stampede parade

Connection and affection for Stampede weekend through the years

In the fall of 1953, Willie Dye arrived in Williams Lake.

He was six years old, the eleventh child of 11 children, and his parents came to manage the Ranch Hotel.

“When we first came, we were a population boom,” joked Dye.

His first language is humour, and Dye recounts his past in a self-deprecating and humourous tone.

In those days, Williams Lake was a tiny cowtown, with only three hotels: the Ranch, the Maple Leaf and the Lakeview.

Dye left this metropolis in 1964 when his parents moved to Quesnel to manage a hotel there.

After graduation, he went on to spend a few years at the University of Victoria, where he said he majored in curling and being a member of the Uvic ski club, despite the fact he did not ski.

‘They had the best parties,” he quipped. Dye returned to the lakecity around 1970.

His formative years were spent here and he still considered it home, and memories of Stampede loomed large for him as he recalled his early years.

“There was a vibration in the air. It was special,” he recalled of the days leading up to the event.

“A mass of humanity would flood into the street” in preparation for the parade, and then those same people would all flood out towards the Stampede Grounds to watch the rodeo.

After the rodeo, people would head back to town to socialize.

There were lineups up to two hours outside the bars on Oliver Street, recalled Dye.

The first Stampede after the family arrived, it was 1954, and his father decided to enter a float in the parade to promote the hotel.

Remembering the replica chuckwagon and horses his father put in for their float, Dye said he was “thrilled as hell” to be in it, despite the weather.

“It rained so hard I thought I was going to drown,” he laughed.

You can still hear the affection Dye holds for the action and excitement of the Stampede weekend in his voice, and he said he takes part in some aspect of it every year.

He said he doesn’t understand the locals who leave town for Stampede weekend, when there is so much to enjoy, things like going to one of the many pancake breakfasts in town.

“Just running across people you probably haven’t seen in four or five years.”

It is this deep affection for the entire weekend of events which led him to take on the task of organizing this year’s Stampede parade.

Or at least his alter-ego Ultimate Arty is organizing it, the character he cooked up to help promote the Williams Lake Art Walk.

He came up with the idea of a character, but couldn’t find anyone to play it.

“I’m stuck with this concept, so I better do something with it,” said Dye, who then became Ultimate Arty, the Art Walker.

While no longer involved in the art walk event, Dye was hoping to help out with the parade, and offered Arty’s support to the Daybreak Rotary Club.

The club was not interested in Arty, but Arty was still interested in the parade.

So when rotary decided not to continue organizing the parade, Ultimate Arty stepped up to offer his assistance.

While he is not being paid, Dye said he is motivated by the challenge and wants to try and make it the best parade Williams Lake has ever had.

He just did not want to see the tradition lost, given once events lapse, it can be harder to bring them back and things had already been on hold for two years.

“It’s going to be a fabulous parade, and everybody should come out to see it.”

Arty is still looking for more volunteers to support the event and anyone interested can call or text 3250-398-8826.

Read more: New promo video highlights huge range of events during Stampede in Williams Lake

Read more: Ultimate Arty to organize Williams Lake Stampede Parade


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