The newly crowned Williams Lake Stampede Queen and Princess are welcoming everyone to this year’s 88th Annual Williams Lake Stampede.
“Stampede is always a great time,” said Stampede Queen Michelle Ball.
Five rodeo performances beginning today, June 27, and stretching until Monday highlight the weekend’s festivities.
Stampede Princess Matina Durfeld said she’s looking forward to all of the events, and will even be participating in this year’s inaugural Wild Cowgirls Race.
“So far I’m signed up for Friday’s [day performance at 12:45 p.m.],” Durfeld said. “I’m really excited.”
Following Friday’s first rodeo a second will be held later in the evening, beginning at 6:45 p.m. Saturday, the rodeo begins at 1:45 p.m., following the Stampede Parade (10 a.m.) and Street Party (11 a.m.). Sunday’s rodeo starts at 1:45 p.m., before Monday’s rodeo at 12:45 p.m. puts a close on the weekend.
Williams Lake Stampede Association president Fred Thomas said they decided to move the Saturday and Sunday rodeos ahead one hour this year to allow for people to travel between the parade and street party more easily.
In total, Thomas said 419 contestants are registered to compete during the four days of competition — many of who are travelling from the U.S. and are considered some of the best cowboys and cowgirls in the country.
“Most of the contestants that compete at the Canadian Finals in Edmonton in November and the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in December will be in Williams Lake,” he said.
In addition to this year’s rodeo performances, Thomas and the WLSA have brought in a new act to proceed the rodeo each day: Global FMX Professional Freestyle Motocross.
“They’ve been at the Calgary Stampede, they’ve been in Shanghai, China, and in Mexico so they’re well known,” he said.
Thomas added he looks forward to seeing the Stampede grounds packed with people every year, and said he doesn’t have a particular favourite part of the Stampede.
“The whole event [is what I like best],” he said. “We want to make the whole event appealing to families so there’s a little something for everyone. We want to entertain the family as a group.”
The Let ‘R Buck Saloon has also undergone a facelift this year for those interested in checking out some of the entertainment.
“We tore down the old stage and built a new log structure to replace it,” Thomas said, adding Durfeld Log and Timber supplied the materials. “It goes hand-in-hand with all the log structures we have on the grounds so it fits right in.”
Thomas said he hopes people will pay tribute to long-time rancher, cowboy and past Stampede president Bruce Watt, who passed away at the age of 87 in November.
“He was involved with rodeo and ranching all his life,” Thomas said. “He was just a tremendous ambassador for rodeo. He got me involved with Stampede. Bruce and I used to team rope together, so he got me hooked on the Stampede part of it.”
Newly crowned Queen Ball said she’s absolutely thrilled to be Stampede Queen, even though it all seems surreal.
“I’m honoured and looking forward to reigning alongside my Princess [Durfeld],” she said, adding the addition of this year’s Junior Stampede Princess pageant will be one of her highlights, along with a meet and greet at the Williams Lake Seniors Village.
Everyone is encouraged to dust off their boots and cowboy hats and join in the fun.
Stampede Royalty to be busy
The 2014 Stampede Queen Michelle Ball and Stampede Princess Matina Durfeld will be out and about in the community this weekend lending their charm and support to all of the activities planned.
For part of the time they will be joined by the 10 little winners of Stampede Princess for a Day contest, who were guests at the coronation June 21, attend a Stampede pancake breakfast this morning and will be introduced at the rodeo grand entries this evening and Saturday afternoon.
They will arrive in a horse-drawn wagon.
They will also watch a rodeo and participate in the Daybreak Rotary Stampede Parade Saturday.
The Stampede Queen and Princess will participate in all five rodeo grand entries this weekend and help out selling 50/50 tickets and making draws for prizes.
The formal rodeo exchange of crowns takes place during the opening ceremonies of the second rodeo performance at about 7 p.m. tonight.
Retiring queen Rachel Abrahamse and Princess Karina Sukert will also be helping out at the Stampede Street Party Saturday.
During the weekend the Stampede Queen and Princess will also be hosting various visiting royalty. Sunday the royals will also participate in the Knights of Columbus Pancake Breakfast at Save-on Foods and visit the Seniors Village with the Stampede rodeo clown.
Monday the royals are also scheduled to participate in the animal athlete tour at 9 a.m. behind the bucking chutes, and attend the Rotary Club breakfast behind Lake City Ford.
All of the royals are also invited to the volunteer appreciation barbecue on Monday evening after the rodeo.
On Canada Day the royals have been invited to help out with face painting at the Canada Day celebrations in Boitanio Park from 10 a.m. until noon.