Diana French pens a weekly column for the Williams Lake Tribune. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Diana French pens a weekly column for the Williams Lake Tribune. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

FRENCH CONNECTION: 95th Stampede should be a dandy

Williams Lake will start hopping today as local residents and out-of -towners begin to gather for the 95th Stampede. This year will be special, no pandemic restrictions.

I came to the Cariboo Chilcotin in 1951, but didn’t make it to the Stampede until the early 60s. There were stampedes or gymkhanas all over the Chilcotin, including the Anahim Stampede, and our family went to plenty of them. For my first Williams Lake show, our family stayed two nights in the laketown on our way to the coast for holidays. We bought the boys cowboy hats and spent a day at the Stampede.

We left the Chilcotin in 1965 for Bridge Lake and there was an annual stampede there too. Everyone in the community helped with it. I had a short career as a timer. For a number of years after we moved to Williams Lake we helped with a large local concession stand on the Stampede Grounds. Later I “covered” Stampede events for this paper. That was back in the rowdy days, when one Stampede promoter visited Vancouver bars inviting people to come to the Stampede “for a weekend you’ll never remember.” There were lots of local contestants then, always someone special to cheer for.

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In the early 90s, my husband, bored after a few year’s retirement, took on the job as custodian of the Stampede grounds. We lived in a trailer there for two years. It was a great place to be, especially for the grandchildren. They had a huge playground, and ringside seats not only for western events, but for the different shows, like carnivals and the circus.

I’ve never missed a parade, have participated in some, but haven’t been to the last few stampedes. Age has slowed me down.

This stampede should be a dandy. Enjoy.

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