It’s the friendliness of the Canadian Rodeo Finals in Edmonton that has made Willie Crosina and the bus tour he organizes a permanent fixture at the event for four decades.
“I’ve been to Vegas and as far as I’m concerned the CRF is far better,” the local rodeo legend said Tuesday after returning from his 41st trip attending the finals held last week. “It’s the friendliness that makes it great and the way people treat you. From the person we got the tickets from to the usher at the top of the stairs who asked to be stationed near our station.”
Last year Crosina and his wife, Terry, decided to sit where they wouldn’t need to climb stairs, and the people who normally sit behind them thought something had happened because they weren’t sitting with everyone else.
“They actually came up and visited us,” he recalled. “That’s what I mean about the friends you make there. I didn’t even know their names but we always had a visit every year.”
Sixty people made up his tour group this year, with some people driving or flying, but the majority riding together on a bus.
The coach departed from Prince George on Wednesday, Nov. 8 at 3:30 p.m. and stopped in Quesnel, Williams Lake and Kamloops before heading up Highway 5 to Edmonton.
“We stopped for breakfast at Smitty’s in Edson, which we do every year. I always warn them we are coming and actually they did their renovations a week early so they wouldn’t miss us this time.”
A highlight of the rodeo this year was being one of four people interviewed by rodeo announcer Wayne Brooks.
“They showed a spotlight on three of them and then I was the fourth. Wayne interviewed me and gave me the microphone to say what I liked about the whole rodeo,” Crosina said. “Because the interview was shown on the big screen then a lot of people watching knew where to come and find me.”
Another bonus was running into Wendy Purdy who used to work for the City at the Cariboo Memorial Complex.
“Wendy was always really helpful when I was organizing the Indoor Rodeo. She saw where I was and came up to visit with Terry and I. And a cousin’s granddaughter from Fort St. John was there and she came up and said “hi.” I’d never seen her before. That had to be great.”
In 2010, Crosina was presented a CRF competitor jacket in a special presentation during the Grand Entry.
“I still have it. In fact I wore it the night I was going to be spotlighted for something, I just didn’t know what.”
Crosina said 2017 was the last year the CRF will be held at Northlands Coliseum, because the City of Edmonton has decided to tear it down.
He hopes the rodeo will stay in Edmonton because if it were to be moved further east to another city, such a as Saskatoon, then he wouldn’t be able to attend.
Recalling the first time he attended, Crosina said it happened because he could not afford to go.
“I used to have coffee with one of the owners of Cariboo Travel and was telling him I would sure love to go to the Canadian Finals and could not afford it. About a week later he said “if you can get 12 other people to go you can go for free.”
The rest is history.