Blue skies and smiles prevailed at the 28th Annual Bella Coola Rodeo, hosted by the Valley Ridge Riders. This year’s celebration, which ran from June 28 through July 1 began in earnest on Friday afternoon, with an open gymkhana, featuring cash prizes and buckles for the high point winners in each of four age-based categories. Contestants competed in five events: Keyhole, Polebending, Stake Race, Scurries, and Barrel Racing. The gymkhana was extremely well attended by riders, running from 3:00 pm until after 7:00.
While the only rain of the weekend fell late in the afternoon on Friday, it didn’t dampen the spirits of contestants or the general public who attended the open air dance on Friday evening, enjoying upbeat live music by Saskatchewan band, Trick Ryder, who entertained on both Friday and Saturday nights. Reviews of this year’s band were unanimously positive.
On Saturday and Sunday, the action got underway in the afternoon with rodeo performances co-approved by the British Columbia Rodeo Association (BCRA) and Western Indian Rodeo and Exhibition Association (WIREA). For the second year in a row, the rodeo format featured two full one-day rodeos.
The change in format from previous years was intended to encourage contestants to make the comparatively long haul to Bella Coola in order to compete, rather than attend conflicting events in Bridge Lake, Williams Lake, or elsewhere.
The two-rodeo format allows contestants to potentially achieve points twice over the weekend, improving their chances of “winning the year” in their chosen event. Due to the overwhelmingly positive response to the two one-day rodeo format, the Bella Coola organizing committee will now look at how to balance the large number of entries with the need to keep the day from running too long. Perhaps next year will see full rodeo action spread over three days, rather than two?
In addition to the standard events that make up the regular rodeo performances, the Valley Ridge Riders hosted a number of novelty events encouraging local participation. Events to which local spectators have become accustomed include the very popular Businessman’s Cow Ride, Wild Cow Milking, a Calf Scramble for the kids, and the most popular “event” with spectators, the Cow Patty Bingo. A few lucky locals went home with bigger-than-average smiles as a result of these novelty events. Stock Contractor Dale Dejonckeere of Wild West Entertainment Rodeo (WWE), made sure veterans and “newbies” alike had the best possible stock and were safe throughout.
Another significant change in the weekend’s activities, from previous years, flowed from the decision made early in the year, not to hold a bull-a-rama on Monday. Recent years has seen a decline in attendance by bull riders, for a variety of reasons. Rather than fight the trend, the Valley Ridge Riders Board of Directors decided to host a number of different activities on Monday. A Jackpot Team Roping and Wild Pony Race had spectators cheering and laughing through the afternoon.
Monday’s featured event: the Junior Steer Riding, proved to be both exciting and lucrative for several contestants and one lucky Spectator. Mitch Lorimer showed his support and appreciation for the Juniors – the bull riders of tomorrow – and the young men put on a great performance, with Kyle Bell winning the day for Mr. Lorimer. Word has it that the Bella Coola Steer Riding, complete with Calcutta – the auctioning of riders to the bidding public – will become a regular annual event. Veteran rodeo announcer and auctioneer Brian Baldry called the action, much to the crowd’s enjoyment.
Of course, a full weekend of excitement and entertainment requires a lot of work behind the scenes, and the VRR Rodeo is no exception. While a few of the participants are professionals who make their living in rodeo, the vast majority are volunteers, and it takes a lot of volunteers to put on a show of this caliber!
From local business and individuals who sponsor events with cash donations, to the many people pulling shifts in the concession, beer garden, and at the entrance gates, to the local and almost local folks, who keep the stock moving and gates working on the backside, each and every role is important. Many people put the weekend together, and many more enjoy the final result. The Valley Ridge Riders thanks them all! Without the support of the community, and the dedication of rodeo families, it couldn’t be done. Congratulations to the Valley Ridge Riders on another successful rodeo. Long May You Run!