The 85th annual Williams Lake Stampede promises a great four-day rodeo show with many locally raised cowboys and cowgirls competing with top contenders from across Canada and the U.S.
Stampede president Fred Thomas says 406 contestants are entered this year in the major events — bull riding, saddle bronc, bareback, tie down, team roping, steer wrestling, and ladies barrel racing.
“It is a great show. We’re certainly hoping for 12,000-plus visitors this year,” Thomas says.
“The total payout is estimated at $140,000 to $150,000 this year,” Thomas says. “We have increased our purse this year from $10,000 to $11,000 per event.”
If you count the local events such as the ranch challenge and mountain race, he says the payout to competitors will total somewhere around $175,000.
Thomas says the Williams Lake Stampede is a one-round rodeo which means each entrant competes one time during the four-day rodeo in each event they enter.
Some competitors specialize in one event while others compete in several events to go for the all-around title.
The Williams Lake Stampede is one of about 60 professional rodeos sanctioned by the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association happening during the rodeo season leading up to the Canadian National Rodeo Finals in Edmonton in November.
Thomas says some of the local competitors on the CPRA circuit this year are Williams Lake brothers and bull riders Kyle and Reid Lozier.
Lee Graves is now a world champion steer wrestler who is originally from Williams Lake and now makes his home in Calgary.
Team and tie down roper Steven Thiessen is originally from Quesnel and now makes his home in Alberta.
Steven Lloyd is a tie down roper who is also originally from Quesnel and has been to the Canadian finals in Edmonton numerous times, consistently placing in the top 10 to 15, Thomas says.
Barrel racer Colleen Dugan is originally from Anahim Lake and has been barrel racing professionally for a number of years now.
Thomas says the Williams Lake Stampede had 12,500 visitors last year and the association is hoping that many people will come out again this year to watch the local, national and international competitors.
Tickets to the rodeo and other Stampede events happening Thursday, June 30 to Sunday, July 3 are available in the Stampede office behind the grandstand or call 250-398-8388.
About 40 people have been volunteering for the Monday night work bees over the past few weeks to spruce up the Stampede Grounds for the rodeo — cleaning, painting and repairing fences and livestock pens, and weed eating around the grounds.
One volunteer who wished to remain anonymous repainted and repaired some of the letters of the big sign over the Grandstand, which says “Home of the Famous Williams Lake Stampede.”
The letters really jump out at you now with the red background to match the red roofs of the adjacent buildings and the clean white lettering.
Thomas says the other major addition is a new storage garage at a cost about $70,000.
The new storage garage is 24-feet wide by 48-feet long and designed to blend in with the new announcers station completed two years ago and the special guest seating area completed about four years ago.
About a quarter of the cost of the structure came in the form of in-kind donations of time and materials from local business people.
Thomas says in-kind donations for the project were made by Durfeld Log and Timber for the support logs, Tim Lloyd Construction for framing, and Marko Zurak for excavation work.