The 20th annual Tsilhqot’in Horse and Bike Ride group will start their journey to the 95th annual Williams Lake Stampede Saturday, June 24.
Tl’etinqox Chief Joe Alphonse said he is proud of the ride and how much it has come to mean for everyone.
He said the ride was started as a way to connect youth to horses and the land, and to give them something to look forward to each year. It was first suggested by the late Roland Alphonse, the chief’s cousin.
“This was a way to honour the Williams Lake Stampede and mentor youth as they ride into town. We believe in that vision to get youth into that lifestyle of horses.”
Twenty years ago Alphonse said Williams Lake was ranked No. 1 in crime. He said during that time leadership in his community focused on the youth who were doing well, and created opportunities for recreation and culture, such as the ride.
“We worked to keep the kids on the right track. Brag them up,” Alphonse said, noting for many youth the Tsilhqot’in Horse and Bike Ride is the only chance they get to have overnight campouts, where they can visit and reconnect with community members from throughout the Tsilhqot’in Nation.
“It’s really important in order to have healthy living that the youth feel they belong to a large group.”
All told, the group will have travelled five days and about 100 kilometres to get to the Williams Lake Stampede. They will camp out four nights on their journey and also take part in a mini gymkhana hosted by Jack Palmantier.
“We are very thankful to Jack Palmantier who hosts us each year,” he said.
Day 1 the group leaves Tl’etinqox and heads to the River Ranch Saturday, June 24.
Day 2 the group heads to Jack Palmantier’s homestead where they will stay two nights.
Day 3 the group travels to Meldrum Creek turnoff at the top of the Sheep Creek hill to camp.
Day 4 the group leaves for town to arrive at RC Cotton site Wednesday, June 28.
Alphonse said the group is excited to be part of the Williams Lake Stampede Parade again this year and also hopes they will be invited to take part in the Grand Entry at the Stampede Grounds.