The 40th Annual Elders Gathering will kick off with a Wild Wild West Rodeo at the Stampede Grounds on Monday, July 11, beginning at 5 p.m.
Co-ordinator Joan Gentles, a former rodeo competitor herself, said she is happy with the turn out of entries and very thankful for the people that are entering to put on a show for the elders.
With the co-operation of C+ Rodeos, who is stocking the rodeo, the rodeo will feature 11 bull riders, Gentles said.
There will also be an Indian Relay — something that has never been showcased in Canada before..
“I’ve only watched it in the States, in Pendleton, Oregon,” Gentles said of the Indian Relay.
“I thought it was something we could possibly get our troubled youth involved in because there’s an adrenaline rush with it. It’s quite exciting, even for the spectators.”
In the Indian Relay, competitors race three saddleless horses, going around the track on each horse.
“They change horses right in front of the grand stand, so we can only take four riders for safety reasons,” Gentles said. “Right now we have three people entered.”
Gentles hopes the Indian Relay Race will catch on in the Cariboo-Chilcotin.
“If somebody can put together a program it could possibly help turn some of our young people around.”
During the grand entry, 15 living rodeo legend elders who have done well or exceptionally well in rodeo will be honoured.
“Each one of them will receive a plaque stating the reason for it, and I have also put together a booklet that lists all the sponsors and stories about the living legends,” Gentles added.
Thirty-four-year-old saddle-bronc rider Kaila Mussell will also be honoured during the grand entry.
“Kaila is the only female saddle bronc rider that has fulfilled her permit in professional rodeo,” Gentles said, noting she has known three generations of Mussell’s family. “She’s riding here, she has a good horse drawn up.”
Being a part of a rodeo family for many years Gentles knows a lot of the young people now on the rodeo circuit.
“I’ve known Kaila as a steer rider, a young barrel racer, then junior and into women’s barrel racing. I watched her as a trick rider and now as a saddle-bronc rider.”
While the barrel racing will feature junior and peewee barrel racing along with the adults, the rodeo will also feature some gymkhana events, such as junior and peewee pole bending, at the request of the elders.
“And we have novelty races — the mountain race, three-eights of a mile and the pony express,” Gentles said. “During my time at the all-girls rodeos and other rodeos where they had the pony express they had one saddle and three horses, so we were unsaddling after each round. That’s what we are doing as part of the Wild Wild West Rodeo.”
Another added event is the cowhide race where a rider on a horse drags his partner on a cowhide to the other end of the arena.
The rider gets off, touches the fence, and the one that rode the cowhide gets up on the horse and drags his partner back.
“I used to do that in my younger days as well,” Gentles added.
Many volunteers are helping out, Gentles noted, including Tsi Del Del Chief Ervin Charleyboy who will be the announcer, Wayne William and Tim Rolph as rodeo judges, two timekeepers and two cash pay out secretaries.
“I am very very thankful to all of the people that are just pitching in,” Gentles said. “I also want to specially thank all the sponsors because if it wasn’t for them the event would not have been possible. And many thanks to the Williams Lake Stampede Association for the team work in making the event happen.”
It’s going to be an exciting event and everyone is welcome, Gentles said.