Fast horses, warm hospitality and a great rodeo made for a fun weekend for the Williams Lake Stampede Royalty.
On Aug. 9 the royalty left Williams Lake to take in the Omak Stampede and Suicide Race. We were pleased to be the first Williams Lake royalty to cross the border.
We arrived on Thursday night just in time to check in at the royalty tent to get our tickets and watch day one of rodeo action.
Omak’s arena is a large circle which allows for fast grand-entry runs and many horses in the arena at once.
They begin every rodeo with the presentation of each sponsor on a flag. This means that the arena ends up being filled with more than 40 horses loping in two large circles. Following the flag ride is the presentation and grand entry of the Canadian and American flag plus all visiting royalty. Since we were unsure of our arrival time Stampede Princess Terris Billyboy and I decided to watch the first day rather than ride. Were we ever surprised!
The grand entry for visiting royalty as well as for their own royalty is a galloping lap of the arena at twice the speed of the Williams Lake entries.
For the half-time show, Omak brought in a very young family of trick riders. They impressed the crowds with many fancy maneuvers and daring tricks.
However, the highlight of the night for us was definitely the Suicide Race held after the rodeo. The Suicide Race is very similar to the Williams Lake mountain race except the Suicide Race is a straight plunge into a river.
The horses and riders cross the channel and fly up onto the track to finish the race in the arena. We were lucky to have found the perfect view standing directly across from the hill and water channel.
The race was incredible to watch.
Friday began with a meet and greet at Omak’s Apple Blossom Seniors’ Center.
Stampede Princess Terris Billyboy and I introduced ourselves to the seniors and happily went from table to table explaining where Williams Lake was located.
Many were pleased to know we had come so far. We even met a few people who had worked in Williams Lake when they were young.
After the seniors’ centre all the royalty was brought to Walmart to sign our autograph sheets and take pictures with everyone who wanted one.
To finish up the afternoon we were toured around the four different tack and western wear stores in the area. All the businesses were very pleased to have the royalty shop at their stores.
Once afternoon shopping was finished we went down to the rodeo grounds to connect with the horses arranged for the Williams Lake royalty. When they arrived and were unloaded we were pleased to see the big black mare at the trailer.
The lady then informed us that there was a second big, black mare on the other side of the trailer so that we matched for the weekend. She was not joking when she said big!
We were treated wonderfully by the owners as they insisted on saddling the horses for us. We were also given the chance to go into the arena to warm up the horses and get used to their movements.
Both horses were a perfect fit for us. Fifteen minutes before the rodeo we lined up for grand entry with the rest of the royalty.
We decided to try to do a Canadian entry on our horses but both horses knew the drill and once they were at the gate those mares were at a gallop. I must admit it was the most fun grand entry I have been in so far. Terris and I were a part of setting an arena record for the Friday night grand entry with the most royalty in the arena at one time.
Omak had 42 girls with shining crowns in the arena at the same time! We handed our horses over and finished our night by watching the stampede, the suicide race and signing many tear sheets at the royalty tables at the end of the night.
Saturday started bright and early with us meeting our horses down town for the parade. We decided to test out our horse sashes with the Williams Lake Stampede Royalty on the sides of them.
For the Omak Parade Terris and I also decided to carry the Williams Lake Stampede flags which gave us lots of positive feedback from other royalty committees as well as spectators.
The parade was lovely with a mixture of horses, cars and floats all being announced as we wandered down the main street. Immediately after the parade the Omak Stampede Queen, Katie Fergus, hosted a royalty lunch at city hall.
This was a wonderful opportunity to meet the other visiting royalty and their chaperones as well as learn more about other royalty programs.
We ended our lovely Saturday at the Omak Stampede with another fast grand entry with our weekend horses.
Royalty was expected to pay for their Stampede ticket on the Saturday night. However, the business man who had also paid for our hotel room heard about this and ended up paying for all the visiting royalty to watch up front and centre in the bucket seats.
Terris and I thanked him for the kind gesture and happily took our seats to watch the rodeo. The Saturday night half-time show was the same as the Friday night’s show with two dirt bike trick riders.
It was amazing to see the maneuvers they were able to perform in mid-air over their jump.
That night we decided to get the perfect spot on the fence across from the Suicide hill. Even though it was my third time watching, my breathe was still taken away when the horses and riders came rushing over the top of the hill. We finished our royalty duties by signing our tear sheets at the royalty tables.
Omak, Washington was an absolutely wonderful experience for the Williams Lake Royalty. Besides the 37-degree Celsius weather that almost melted us, we were treated exceptionally well by the committee and by the city. The best way to sum up our weekend: fast horses, warm hospitality and a great rodeo.
— Alexis Forseille on behalf of myself and Terris Billyboy.