The Williams Lake Stampede will be seeing the return of old traditions in a new way this year with the Cariboo Heritage Gathering.
During the early years as part of Stampede celebrations, the community would take part in an informal fair-like gathering combined with a more traditional rodeo, involving local working cowboys. With the help of the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin, the Williams Lake Stampede Association is looking to revive this tradition for Canada Day this year.
WLSA president Tim Rolph said that they’re still doing their usual high-performance Stampede rodeos and events for the first four days of the event from Thursday, June 27 to Sunday June 30 in addition to this new event.
“It will be four days of professional rodeo action, our Let ‘R’ Buck stage will be going every night, the beer gardens, the mountain race, the wild cowgirl race and the bronc buster trade show, all of that’s going to be just like it has been,” Rolph said.
This new family-focused day was inspired in part by the Cariboo Regional District Library discovering two old posters, circa 1930 and 1931, of previous Stampedes, then known as the Annual Stampede and Gathering. Rolph said they partnered with the museum because they wanted to have a day specifically dedicated to celebrating the history of Western culture and the rodeo within the community and how it birthed the Stampede Williams Lake knows today.
“Our audience every year is growing in numbers but also in their locality, we’re starting to get more and more outside people who have no idea about our lifestyle in the Cariboo,” Rolph said. “So (the Cariboo Heritage Gathering) is a really unique opportunity for us to showcase what we’re all about.”
The president of the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin, Janice Sapp, said the museum is happy and feels very fortunate to partner with the WLSA for this event, a continuation of a long history of collaboration between the two organizations. This event will allow the museum to continue its own efforts of being more engaged with the public, which is what they’re all about, Sapp said.
Sapp plans to bring in more local musicians for the Cariboo Heritage Gathering from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., heritage demonstrations like the 153 Mile Store display, First Nations traditional activities and a variety of other events throughout the day currently still being planned. She said that they’ll also have a traditional children’s carnival, a market made up of local vendors and a vintage car show featuring vehicles older than the 1960s.
“There’s still planning underway so we’re always looking for people to join forces with us and come out and volunteer a bit,” Sapp said.
Applications for vendors and volunteers can be found online at the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin’s Facebook page or by contacting them directly at 250-392-7404.
According to longtime museum volunteer Sharon MacDonald, they have already partnered with and invited several heritage based individuals and organizations from throughout the community. These include a blacksmith, the Williams Lake Spinners, Weavers and Fibre Artist’s Guild, the Williams Lake Community Band, the Potato House and many more.
Sapp and MacDonald also confirmed that the popular yet long absent Bull Throwing Contest will be back this year at the gathering. Bull Throwing, for those unfamiliar with the event, is a competition in which local politicians see who can throw specially preserved cow patties the farthest, with a trophy awarded to the most capable.
MacDonald said that, if the event goes well, it’s likely it will be added to Stampede from here on out to round out the end of the Stampede and will not be bound to Canada Day. Rolph confirmed that this is the case, adding that the Wild Cowgirl and Mountain Races will also still be happening during the Cariboo Heritage Gathering.
Court Smith, the second vice-president of the WLSA, said that all of these events will be happening in conjunction with a traditional ranch rodeo held in the Stampede’s arena.
“The ranch rodeo will showcase the current working cowboys (of the area). It will be a real interesting day for those who come, the museum is going to put a real family flavour on the day and the ranch rodeo will expose people to stuff you wouldn’t normally see,” Smith said. “It’s going to be a great day.”
Tickets for all five days of the Williams Stampede are available now online, with ticket prices for the Cariboo Heritage Gathering set at $10 for adults and $8 for children.