After a year of representing the Williams Lake Stampede both at home and afar, the outgoing 2014/15 Stampede royalty say giving up their titles at Friday night’s Stampede will be bitter sweet.
“I’ll be sad to move on, but I’m looking forward to seeing what the next queen has in store,” said Stampede Queen Michelle Ball.
“It seems so long ago,” added Stampede Princess Matina Durfeld of being crowned 2014/15 Stampede Princess last year. “We were just saying so much is different since we started.”
Michelle and Matina said the two grew close during their year together and shared the many highs and some lows that come with being Stampede royalty.
“We have a famous rodeo, but we are not a famous city. Being the Stampede Queen and Princess is all about representing Williams Lake and getting the community’s name out there and we did that,” Michelle said.
During their reign the girls travelled extensively to rodeos throughout Alberta and Washington, keeping up with a hectic schedule and learning lots along the way.
“Horsemanship is definitely a necessity,” Matina said of expectations that come with the title, explaining they had to ride a different horse for grand entries at every different rodeo.
Matina said being trusted with someone’s prized horse was one of the highlights of the year for her, but it could also lead to stressful rides in front of crowds, added Michelle.
“That was probably our biggest challenge — or should I say adventure — for the year,” Michelle said, laughing with Matina at the memories.
Highlights for Michelle included attending the Calgary Stampede, visiting a children’s hospital in Spokane and travelling to and being a part of the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton in November.
“The highs are going to rodeos and seeing something new every time. You never get bored of that,” said Michelle.
For Matina, touring the Stetson warehouse, being in the Calgary Stampede Parade and visiting the set of her favourite TV show, Heartland, as well as meeting the actors and getting to go for a ride on the Heartland horses is something she’ll never forget.
“We met some pretty amazing people. People in the rodeo community are so friendly, caring and kind. No matter where we went, people treated us like family,” said Matina.
Some things they may sooner forget include 14-hour road trips and having to change and do their hair and makeup in gas station bathrooms or bobby-pinning their hats to their heads until they had headaches to ensure their hats didn’t fly off during rodeo performances.
“We were told if your hat hits the ground, your head better be in it,” they said.
Michelle and Matina will take part in the Crowning in the Dirt ceremony at Friday evening’s rodeo performance and will also be in the Stampede Parade Saturday morning, rounding out their duties.
The two are close friends thanks to their reign and both have plans for the future; Michelle is continuing her schooling to become a primary care paramedic while Matina just graduated from college and is now an equine sports therapist.
“After a year of service I feel I’ve done my duty and it’s time to move on to another chapter in life, but we are both very thankful for our time (as Stampede Royalty),” Matina said.
Michelle said being Stampede Queen taught her to “never give up on your dreams” and that she is grateful for the experience.
Both women would like to thank their sponsors and their families for supporting them during their year as Stampede Queen and Princess.