It was a record-breaking weekend at the Williams Lake Stampede.
First the grandstand sold out for Saturday evening’s performance; the next day came the loud-speaker announcement to much applause that attendance over the four-day event had hit the 15,204 mark — breaking the previous high-attendance marker of 13,152.
Not bad considering two weeks earlier Williams Lake Stampede Association president Fred Thomas — interviewed Monday — predicted bums in seats would be lower this year than in years previous.
Thomas said he based that appraisal on advanced ticket sales and the weather forecast.
“Two weeks ago I would say we were not very optimistic about having a record attendance for sure,” he said.
In retrospect Thomas thinks the weather might actually have helped the situation as it encouraged people to stay in the community when they might otherwise have gone to the lake.
There were also plenty of out-of-town visitors from Europe and other parts of the country.
There was no change in how the Stampede was marketed, however.
In addition to more audience members there were also 10 to 15 more contestants.
Thomas said many contestants came up from the American south including Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. He thinks they were enticed by a combination of increased payouts and the fact that the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton in November is now open to a number of U.S. contestants.
“It makes it more competitive,” Thomas said of the benefit to the Williams Lake Stampede.
“A lot of American cowboys are good cowboys.”
Competitors were paid to 10th place for most of the events and to 15th place for barrel racing.
For Thomas one of the rodeo’s highlights was the selling out of the grandstand on Saturday. The other was the performances of the cowboys, cowgirls and stock.
“Overall the rodeo was really good. The horses bucked well and the bulls were good. At the timed events we had some really good competitors competing here,” Thomas said.
“We never had the best of ground conditions because of all the rain. But overall for the ground conditions I think that the calibre of cowboys that were here really did a great job.”
As of Monday afternoon, Thomas wasn’t resolving to change the event much for the upcoming 2012 edition.
“When you look at the fact that we set an attendance record hopefully we did something right. I’m certain the board of directors will be looking at ways over the winter to make the Stampede better in 2012.”
There was one item that Thomas had earmarked for a possible change next year, however. During the Family Day on Sunday some individuals who did not arrive early enough to purchase a general admission ticket before they were sold out were told they would have to purchase tickets in the reserve seating section for themselves and their children.
Typically during Family Day, adults can purchase a general admission ticket for themselves and their children.
“That was very unfortunate,” Thomas said. “I think that’s something we’re going to work on for next year.”