Can we get a big yee haw? On August 13 and 14 the rodeo will return after the two-year pandemic hiatus, but the events will take place outdoors at the Williams Lake Stampede grounds.
“I am excited to see the rodeo family again,” says Williams Lake Indoor Rodeo Association (WLIRA) president, Kelly Walls. “We want to give the crowd what they’ve been craving for the last two years.”
There were a number of factors in the reasoning to take the show outdoors, not the least of which is the temperature in the arena in August. Additionally, seating capacity at the indoor arena is approximately 1,000 people, whereas the Williams Lake Stampede grounds can accommodate approximately 4,000 pairs of boots in the stands per day.
The return of this event was not a given. After two years stagnant, while the association held their own financially, community support and participation is more important than ever, to make sure the rodeo carries on in years to come.
“Thankfully, I have an amazing team of directors and volunteers who have been doing this for years and we have some loyal, longtime sponsors and vendors that were able to step up to the plate and help us,” said Walls. “To be honest, without them, the Indoor Rodeo might not be able to continue.”
Fundraising efforts were halted out of respect for the financial strain some people experienced amid the pandemic.
“It’s really hard to justify going out and trying to raise money for the rodeo when there were people not working and people are struggling,” Walls said.
That pause on the fundraising left the association with a “shoestring budget” to operate from for this year, however.
The Williams Lake Indoor Rodeo has traditionally been the first points event of the season for BCRA competitors. This year, it arrives on the heels of 12 British Columbia Rodeo Association’s (BCRA) sanctioned events, including the Prince George Rodeo which has been in mothballs for six long years. It seems rodeo fans are beyond thrilled to see the return of these high-energy, action-packed events. According to Walls, organizers of the Clinton rodeo in May, the first BCRA rodeo this year, saw record-breaking crowds. Princeton also saw an exceptionally large rodeo crowd in June.
“They usually have about 250 spectators, whereas this year it was close to 2,000 people. We know spectators came from as far away as England, Ireland, and Korea. That’s a good sign for our event.”
The number of entrants this year is also a little higher than normal, which translates into even more entertainment for rodeo-goers. The High School Rodeo series is done for the season, and some of those athletes will be taking part in BCRA events throughout the summer, adding to the overall roster of competitors. Featured events will include all the favourites; saddle bronc, bareback, bull riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, barrel racing and team roping. There will also be junior events. As always, there will be a number of unique food and merchandise vendors, and beer gardens both days.
Something that will be a little bit different this year however, is the absence of the much-anticipated and popular barn dance. [Pause for collective heavy sigh.] “We know there has always been a dance at the Williams Lake Indoor Rodeo,” Walls explains. “We needed to restart small, figure out the logistics like security, parking, and even volunteers.”
Championed by local MLA, Lorne Doerkson, he had this to say about the rodeo getting the green light,
“This event has a reputation of real quality with respect to organizers, venue, competitors, stock and overall entertainment. What’s really neat is that it’s a BCRA rodeo; most of these competitors are from BC. Even better, they’re local characters who are our friends and family, and we get to cheer them on! I hope the local communities will join me in welcoming it back with open arms, and will show up and celebrate this 30 year old event.”
With 11 inductees into the Cowboy Hall of Fame, including individuals honoured in 2020, 2021 and, of course 2022, the Hall of Fame presentations will likely be broken up over the two days of events. In fact, the 2022 inductees may attend a ceremony in the Lower Nicola Valley, as that is where most of them reside.
Regrettably, famed rodeo announcer Brett Gardner is unable to attend this year due to a schedule conflict, as is true of beloved and ultra-entertaining clown, Dennis Halstead.
There will be some user groups handling parking and perhaps some other tasks at the event as a fundraiser for their group, but Walls emphasizes the dire need for volunteers, adding there is likely a task to suit all talents and skill sets. If you would like to spend a couple hours a day with a terrific team of volunteers in August, you’re invited to call or text Kelly directly at (250) 267-8865 or Shaun at (250) 305-4747.
Tickets will not be available in advance, but will go on sale the Friday and then Saturday and Sunday before the rodeo and general admission tickets will be available at the gates. Admission is $20 for adults, seniors $15, students $15, and children under five free. There is a section for VIPs in the main grandstands, as the infield will be reserved for competitors only.
“If we go ahead with the rodeo next year, the covered grandstands will be reserved for VIPs,” Walls said. “This year was about keeping things as small and organized as possible.”
Businesses are encouraged to buy group tickets for their staff as a show of support for the rodeo and a bonus for their staff, and everyone should mark their calendars now, so last-minute summer holidays don’t overlap the event.
“I just want a rodeo,” said Walls. “I want the competitors to be able to compete, I want the people to visit and socialize, I want to hear those cheers. I want to see the rodeo family again.”
To say that Kelly Walls is passionate about keeping the Williams Lake Indoor Rodeo alive would be putting it mildly. She is honoured to hold her current leadership position, which the Board decided to carry-over from the 2019 season. Kelly has been president of the WLIRA for better than 10 years, although not consecutively. Volunteering during the 2003 rodeo led to her becoming a Director in 2004, and she’s sat in that saddle ever since. Kelly lives, eats, sleeps, breathes rodeo. In addition to her full-time job, being a director with the BC Rodeo Association, Kelly advises she puts in about 10 hours a week pre-planning and leading up to the event. As rodeo draws closer, she can easily clock 30 hours a week until the event. This year Kelly is in charge of the beer gardens in addition to her regular duties.
Check the website www.wlindoorrodeo.com or the Facebook page @williamslakeindoorrodeo for the most up-to-date information, and promotions.