It’s an exciting time of year for B.C. cowboys, cowgirls and rodeo fans, alike, as in just under two weeks time Williams Lake will officially kick off the BC Rodeo Association season with the 28th Annual Williams Lake Indoor Rodeo.
On Tuesday, April 17, truckloads of dirt will be hauled inside the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex to transform rink one into a rodeo arena where three consecutive days of rodeo April 20-22 await spectators.
“There’s nothing quite like it,” said Williams Lake Indoor Rodeo vice-president Shaun Oxtoby. “You’re right there at the show. It’s an up close and personal event from the rodeo right to the interaction with the clown. You don’t get that at bigger rodeos, and you have to kind of see it to believe it.”
Being indoors, however, does present its challenges for cowboys and rodeo stock, as lighting can be tricky for competitors in some events, not to mention it being the first rodeo of the season for most competitors, who will still be dialing in their form for the upcoming season.
Rodeo events run the gamut including bull riding, steer riding, tie-down roping, team roping, barrel racing, bareback riding and saddle bronc riding.
In all, 300-plus competitors will be in action throughout the weekend, Oxtoby expects, but noted entries are still rolling in.
The Williams Lake Indoor Rodeo Association has been busy working behind the scenes ensuring the entire weekend will be filled with something for the entire family, Oxtoby said.
Live entertainment Friday night and Saturday night from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. will feature the band, Kordaroy, at the Budweiser Beer Garden.
Saturday, the Barn Dance will run from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. featuring the sounds of One in the Chamber.
Sunday, the BC Cowboy Hall of Fame will make its presentations starting at 1 p.m. to this year’s Hall of Fame inductees: David Maurice of Riske Creek (working cowboy), Charlie Brous of Soda Creek (competitive achievements), Pat and Mike Jasper (working cowboys) and Joe Schuk and family (family member).
On Friday, the sixth annual free Cowboy Carnival for children – always a popular attraction for families — will take place from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m. inside rink one at the complex.
“That’s always a crowd pleaser,” Oxtoby said. “It’s amazing how well it’s gone over the years. It just gets more and more popular each year. We have hundreds of kids go through those doors for that.”
There will be stick horse racing, dummy roping, and other mock rodeo events for children to try their hands at. There will also be bean bag tosses, animals and more.
Tickets for the rodeo went on sale Saturday inside the front doors at the CMRC and, so far, Oxtoby said they expect sellout or close to sellout crowds each day.
“We always have good support,” he said. “It brings in a lot of people from out of town, too, because it’s the first big event of the year.”
Tickets will be on sale inside the arena on Saturdays and Sundays leading up to the rodeo from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. They’ll also be on sale weekdays from noon until 6 p.m.
“So far, everything’s looking really good,” he said, noting more than 100 volunteers have stepped up to help make the event possible.
“January, February, we start looking into getting our sponsorships, and everybody’s been really gung-ho for it — we get a few more every year, and we really appreciate that.”
Tickets for the rodeo are $15 for adults, $8 for youth (6-14 years) and seniors, and children five and under are free. Family passes and weekend passes are also available.
Friday’s opening rodeo starts at 6 p.m., with Saturday and Sunday’s rodeos to follow at 1 p.m.
For more information call 250-267-9915, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by the Williams Lake Indoor Rodeo Office.
The WLIRA also has a Facebook page Oxtoby invites anyone interested in keeping up with rodeo happenings to follow.