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Volunteers prepping for the 36th Bella Coola Rodeo

Volunteers are getting excited for the 36th Bella Coola Rodeo, taking place July 1 and 2.

Volunteers are getting excited for the 36th Bella Coola Rodeo, taking place July 1 and 2.

Long-time organizer Joy MacKay said they are grateful for community and business support.

“We have local sponsors for each event,” MacKay said.

In addition to generous financial support from local businesses and individuals, putting on an annual rodeo requires a significant amount of volunteer labour and organization. MacKay is one member of the volunteer board of directors that operates the local riding club, hosting gymkhanas, riding clinics, and of course the Annual Rodeo.

Events begin at 1 p.m. for both action-packed days of rodeo. In addition, an open gymkhana kicks things off on Friday afternoon, showcasing both local and visiting talent.

The ever-popular Bull Riding Calcutta rounds out the long weekend on Monday afternoon, with a Calcutta-style jackpot Steer Riding for the youth as well.

“We have a big chunk of added money this year for Monday’s Bull and Steer Riding,” MacKay said. “The cowboys, once they are entered, do their first ride in the long go. Once everybody gets to see them ride the top cowboys are individually auctioned off to the spectators.”

Each cowboy has an “owner” for the purpose of their next ride, which is the short go round. It’s a tradition that experience has shown is very popular among the spectators.

The owner of the winning rider gets the auction pot, which is usually well over $1,000, she said.

“It’s fun and a way to engage the crowd.”

The Bella Coola Rodeo, which is a British Columbia Rodeo Association sanctioned event, has some other unique features, one being its famous Rodeo Burgers with a secret recipe. Burgers and a variety of other fare will be on sale all weekend.

On Saturday evening there will be a dance beginning at 9:30 p.m. featuring the local country rock band AKA, a great local band. As in past years, Bella Coola Bus Company will be offering a safe ride home to all those who wish to enjoy the dance and partake in the adult refreshment garden.

“People will come for the rodeo and their kids will ride in the gymkhana. Historically we have been a very family-oriented rodeo and it’s really been popular among families because we have a lot of kids’ events. A lot of rodeos these days don’t have so many kids’ events.”

MacKay said they have junior and pee wee events where they can, such as goat tail tying, junior goat tying, pole bending, and of course the junior steer riding, which is really popular, and is where many future bull riders get their start.

Rodeo competitors come from all over B.C. and sometimes Alberta and Washington.

“A lot the same contestants attend rodeos in Williams Lake, Quesnel, and Prince George, as well as other rodeos around the province.

Some contestants will stay in the Valley following the Rodeo, then go up the “Hill” to attend the Anahim Lake Stampede the following weekend.

This year’s Annual Rodeo represents the 36th one to be hosted by the Bella Coola Valley Ridge Riders Horse Club.

The only two years missed were due to the COVID-19 pandemic when the rodeo was cancelled in order to comply with provincial public health orders.

A retired competitor, MacKay participated in barrel racing, team roping and undecorating, when that event was part of BCRA rodeos. Born and raised in Bella Coola, MacKay has been member of the Valley Ridge Riders for most of her life, and involved in the board of directors for most of the past 25 years, while her daughters also competed and enjoyed the other activities offered by the Valley Ridge Riders.

During her personal time, MacKay still enjoys riding and working with children, giving lessons and facilitating Equine Assisted Learning programs.

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With files from Joy MacKay

Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

A B.C. gal, I was born in Alert Bay, raised in Nelson, graduated from the University of Winnipeg, and wrote my first-ever article for the Prince Rupert Daily News.
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