You definitely won’t want to miss anything at this weekend’s 86th annual Williams Lake Stampede.
But in case you do, Fred Thomas, president of the Williams Lake Stampede Association, is bringing in a big-time treat for everyone attending the rodeo.
“One of the biggest things I think that will make this year special is we’re going to have a large video screen setup on the grounds which will give us the capabilities of instant replay and those types of things,” Thomas says. “We’ll have a couple of cameras situated around the arena too so we’ll be filming all the events, plus the mountain horse race and all the other good things.
“Sight lines have always been an issue with the mountain race but being on the big video screen everyone should now be able to see it each day.”
This year’s Stampede is also expected to have the largest participant pool. Thomas says there are currently 466 competitors registered.
“That’s way above average,” he says. “Normally it’s somewhere in the neighbourhood of 375 to 400.”
He adds not only will many of the top cowboys in Canada be vying for titles and prize money but, also, several of the top U.S. cowboys will be in town for the rodeo.
“A lot of the American cowboys — many of them have competed every year at the national finals in Las Vegas — so some of the best in the world will be here, for sure,” he says. In addition, cowboys and cowgirls will be vying for an exceptionally large purse — this year upwards of $150,000, Thomas says.
“I just think our rodeo keeps getting a little better with the better competition we get each year,” he says. “The better competition you have the better rides and better scores, and all in all it makes it a bigger rodeo.”
Quickly becoming a household name in Williams Lake, Alberta’s Tyson Pietsch will once again be back, for the fifth straight time, at this year’s rodeo announcing and calling all the action.
Anyone who attended any of last year’s rodeo performances will also be familiar with this year’s rodeo clown, Bert Davis. Davis, also known as the Coppertown Clown, has been working the rodeo business since 1974 — and returns to Williams Lake this year with his pack of zany dogs, who play a large part in his act. Rodeo performances, including elaborate opening ceremonies and grand entry each day, start Friday at 6 p.m. with “Wear Red to Support our Armed Forces,” then continue at 1 p.m. Saturday following the annual Stampede Parade (10 a.m. downtown). Sunday, the third rodeo performance goes at 1 p.m., before it all comes to a close following Monday’s “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” rodeo. Proceeds from the day go to benefit Diane Johnston (Sheer) and Kids Running for Kids.
Additionally, local events such as the ranch challenge, wild horse race and mountain horse race take place each day.
Live entertainment, including Appaloosa, Robert Rowan and Savage West, will also be performing throughout the weekend in the Let ‘R Buck Saloon and at the famous Williams Lake Stampede Barn Dance Saturday night.
Thomas says the Williams Lake Stampede Association owes a big thanks to its multiple sponsors and volunteers in the community.
“We’ve had such great support from the community,” he says. “It’s unreal. People think the economy is down, which obviously it is, but our sponsorship is as big or bigger than it’s been in the past 15 years.”
For tickets to the rodeo and other Stampede events visit the Stampede office behind the grandstand or call 250-398-8388. For a complete list of times and rodeo details pick up a copy of the Stampede program, located at the Tribune front office or at various spots around town.