Organizers of the popular mountain race are gearing up for the 2019 Williams Lake Stampede.
“We will be taking entries beginning Friday, June 14,” said Jimmy Lulua, Xeni Gwet’in chief and retired mountain racer.
“This is the first time we are going to put out a call for interest and encourage people to submit their entry fees early.”
Lulua said they have been prompted to do things a little differently in 2019.
“This year we have $10,000 in the pot— $5,000 from the Williams Lake Stampede and $5,000 that was raised in our communities.”
The mountain race will take place the first four days of the Stampede — Thursday, June 27 through to Sunday, June 30, with the final on Sunday.
Only 10 riders can compete, so racers who sign up for all four days will be given the priority.
Lulua said there is a possibilit of having two heats, depending on the number of entries.
The sign up is $100 per day to race and the money must be paid up in advance with no refunds.
People wanting to enter can call in on Friday, June 14 from noon to 6 p.m. by phoning Shannon Woods at 250-267-5591.
E-transfers will be accepted.
Lulua said the mountain race will be open to entries on the day of the race if 10 racers are not already signed up.
Veterinary checks of all the horses will be mandatory one hour before rodeo time, Lulua added.
“There will be a practice run on Wednesday, June 26,” Lulua said.
“If a new horse is being used by one of the racers, it has to have at least one practice run that is approved by a race inspector, such as myself, Shannon Woods and the vet.”
To compete in the mountain race, riders on horseback descend at rapid speed from the top of the hill by Oliver Street, down into the Stampede Grounds, then around the race track into the grandstands.
In its early days, the mountain race saw competitors ride down the side of Fox Mountain before crossing the road into the Stampede Grounds.
Some of his community’s skilled mountain racers were showcased in a newly-released episode of Red Chef Revival that was filmed in Xeni Gwet’in last fall.
It is available to view on the Internet through YouTube.
“To us, our Xeni Gwet’in mountain race is the hardest race to win because there are so many obstacles and distance and there are hardly any corners,” Lulua said,
While he won’t be competing himself, Lulua encouraged others to race.
“It’s open to anybody,” he added. “Mountain racers love to see the crowd cheering them on. When the crowd goes wild it really pushes them to the finish line.”