The 85th annual Williams Lake Stampede promises a great four-day rodeo show with many locally raised cowboys and cowgirls competing with top contenders from across Canada and the U.S.
Stampede president Fred Thomas says 406 contestants are entered this year in the major events — bull riding, saddle bronc, bareback, tie down, team roping, steer wrestling, and ladies barrel racing.
“The total payout is estimated at $140,000 to $150,000 this year,” Thomas says. “We have increased our purse this year from $10,000 to $11,000 per event.”
If you count the local events such as the ranch challenge and mountain race, he says the payout to competitors will total somewhere around $175,000.
Thomas says the Williams Lake Stampede is a one-round rodeo which means each entrant competes one time during the four-day rodeo in each event they enter.
Some competitors specialize in one event while others compete in several events to go for the all-around title.
The Stampede is one of about 60 professional rodeos sanctioned by the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association happening during the rodeo season leading up to the Canadian National Rodeo Finals in Edmonton in November.
Thomas says competitors register through the Central Rodeo Entry system, a computerized system that will place the competitors at as many rodeos as they plan to compete in to maximize their chances of becoming one of the top 12 competitors in a particular event to make it into the Canadian finals.
For instance, there are three rodeos on the same weekend as the Williams Lake Stampede: Ponoka June 27 to July 3; Airdrie June 28 to July 2; and Williams Lake June 30 to July 3.
Thomas says some competitors will make it to all three rodeos, flying or driving between their scheduled performances.
Some of the top competitors in events requiring a good horse, such as tie down, team roping and barrel racing, will keep favourite horses in strategic locations in Alberta and B.C.
Competitors at the Williams Lake Stampede will be scheduled into one of the four rodeo performances happening next week at the 85th annual Williams Lake Stampede in the Stampede Grounds starting at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 30; at 6 p.m. Friday, July 1; at 1 p.m. July 2, and at 1 p.m. July 3.
“There are a lot of rules,” Thomas says of the process to rank the cowboys and cowgirls for the national finals.
Competitors are ranked in a complicated accounting system based on their cash winnings in each event, at each rodeo they compete in throughout the season.
Each CPRA rodeo pays out cash prizes to the top 12 competitors in each event in progressively smaller amounts. Payouts depend on the entry fee and number of entrants in a particular event.
In Williams Lake for instance, the entry fee for each major event is $200 and cash prizes are paid out to the top 12 competitors.
Rodeo staff keep track of the cash payouts for each contestant on the central computer, and the final tabulations made at the end of the season determine the top 12 cowboys and cowgirls who will compete in each event at the national finals.
Thomas says some Canadians also go south to compete in U.S. rodeos and some Americans come north to compete in Canadian rodeos.
There are up to five spaces for U.S. competitors to compete at the Canadian Rodeo finals if they make the cut into the top 12 Canadian finalists at the end of the season.
According to a recent information pamphlet, the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association, with headquarters in Ardrie, Alta., sanctioned 53 rodeos in Canada in 2009 with a combined total payout of more than $5.4 million.
Thomas says some of the local competitors on the CPRA circuit this year are Williams Lake brothers and bull riders Kyle and Reid Lozier.
Lee Graves is now a world champion steer wrestler who is originally from Williams Lake and now makes his home in Calgary.
Team and tie down roper Steven Thiessen is originally from Quesnel and now makes his home in Alberta.
Steven Lloyd is a tie down roper who is also originally from Quesnel and has been to the Canadian finals in Edmonton numerous times, consistently placing in the top 10 to 15, Thomas says.
Barrel racer Colleen Dugan is originally from Anahim Lake and has been barrel racing professionally for a number of years now.
Thomas says the Williams Lake Stampede had 12,500 visitors last year and the association is hoping that many people will come out again this year to watch the local, national and international competitors.
“It is a great show. We’re certainly hoping for 12,000-plus visitors this year,” Thomas says.
Tickets to the rodeo and other Stampede events are available in the Stampede office behind the grandstand or call 250-398-8388.