For only the third time in its history, the Williams Lake Stampede will not have a Stampede Royalty Competition.
This decision comes due to a shortage of qualified candidates in the lakecity area this year according to the Royalty Program’s director Patricia ‘Patti’ Gerhardi. However, she said interest in the community is still strong and they only intend for this to be a one-year hiatus.
For 76 of the Williams Lake Stampede’s 93 years of existence, the Williams Lake Stampede Royalty Competition has been an integral part of the celebrations. So much so that it’s only been cancelled twice before: once because of Second World War in the 194os and again later due to disputes over the rules of the contest.
Last year several Stampede Queen and Princess alumni gathered to celebrate the history of the Stampede Royalty program, with many taking part in the parade.
Last year’s competition saw only two women compete for the crown, rather than their usual three. Gerhardi said they did so because both were extremely qualified contenders. Laurin Hurd was ultimately crowned 2018 Stampede Queen and Emilie Nichols was crowned 2018 Stampede Princess, both going on to successfully represent the Royalty Program and Williams Lake.
This year, however, due to a mix of age, circumstances and distance there was only one qualified contestant for Stampede Queen by the time applications closed on April 1, 2019. Making the decision to not hold the competition this year was a sad one, Gerhardi said, as she views the rodeo as one big family.
“We hope to look at other options, in order to maintain the program,” Gerhardi said. “In this day and age, there are so many poor choices for our youth and in my opinion having the chance to (work with the Stampede means) you learn how to work hard, to be compassionate and to be a good sportsman. Those are all qualities that make a good person in my mind.”
Looking to the future, Gerhardi said she is optimistic for the program. Kaylee Billyboy, 2017’s Stampede Queen, and other Stampede alumni had what Gerhardi calls a “very successful” Stampede Queen clinic recently where nine young ladies attended. The age range for running for Queen is 17 to 23 and three of the girls that were most interested in doing so were 16, making them prime candidates for the 2020 contest.
At the Stampede this year Gerhardi and other members of the Royalty Program intend to turn out in force to promote the competition for next year, highlighting the long-term benefits it grants. Interested applicants for next year need to be willing to volunteer their time, be involved or willing to get involved with the community and preferably be good horse riders, Gerhardi said.
“We’re sad this year but we’re not going away and we will be out and about promoting the program,” Gerhardi said.