The rain held off, for the most part, and smiles prevailed at the 29th Annual Bella Coola Rodeo, hosted by the Valley Ridge Riders. This year’s celebration last Friday afternoon, and the small amount of rain that fell didn’t dampen the spirits of contestants or the general public who attended the open air dances on Friday and Saturday evenings, enjoying upbeat live music by the ‘Johnson Brothers.’ 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 third year in a row, the rodeo format featured two full one-day rodeos. This format offers greater incentive to contestants to make the long trip through the Chilcotin and down the “Hill”.
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, which saw more entries and more scored rides than ever. Jacob Sinclair, perhaps better known as Jim and CJ Dixon’s son-in-law, won the event and the buckle, with what was described by veteran judge Cam Williams as a “heck of a ride”.
Sunday’s Wild Cow Milking was also won by a local team: Vickie and Brody Tuck, accompanied by Darius Krugar took top honours for this action-packed event. It’s always fun for the crowd to see local contestants do well, and Brody’s return to the Valley for the weekend made for some extra fun for the whole family. Other local contestants that put in impressive performances and took home some prize money were Annika Granander, Rachel Chatham, Vickie Tuck, and Kaitlyn Absatz. While the Valley Ridge Riders is comprised of only a small group of riders these days, that small group is competitive at any BCRA rodeo.
A Calf Scramble was held for the kids on each day of rodeo action, along with the very popular ‘Cow Patty Bingo.’ A few more lucky locals went home with bigger-than-average smiles as a result of these novelty events. Stock Contractors Dale Dejonckeere and Barbie MacDonald, of D&B Rodeo Stock, made sure veterans and “newbies” alike had the best possible stock and were safe throughout the weekend.
Four British Columbia Barrel Racing Association (BCBRA) races were sponsored by the Club over the weekend. The inclusion of BCBRA races helps to encourage more barrel racers to attend for the weekend rodeo, where they can also fill out their race card with BCBRA qualifiers, prior to that association’s Finals in early September. Two races were held as part of Friday’s gymkhana, and two more rounded out Monday’s ‘Buckles, Barrels and Bucks.’
The top rider in the increasingly popular Calcutta Steer Riding was Denton Spears, purchased by Bob Leneve. As Denton was traveling with the Leneve family for the weekend, it all made for a very happy camp on Monday evening.
While recent years have seen a decline in attendance by bull riders, this year saw a number of top riders stay through the weekend, and so a Calcutta Bull-a-Rama was held after all. Levi Lawlor, purchased by Mitch Lorimer, took top honours in the Bull Riding.
Veteran rodeo announcer and auctioneer Brian Baldry called the action, while his wife Nancy photographed events, and their young son, Latigo, bucked out on his first calf.
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 semi-professionals who make at least part of their living in rodeo, the vast majority of participants are amateurs and 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!