The Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair returned May long weekend for the first time in four years and organizers are thrilled with how “Rodeo Weekend” went.
Kathy Sheppard, president of the Cloverdale Rodeo Association, said she was exhilarated with how everything turned out. She said even with the myriad of moving parts that make up Canada’s second biggest rodeo and country fair, there were no major hiccups.
“The weekend went fantastic,” Sheppard said. “Our event was very well-received. The (Cloverdale Rodeo) Association and the volunteers did an amazing job.”
She said there were a lot of changes to the Cloverdale Rodeo this year from past years, but rodeo-goers weren’t phased.
“They liked the layout. They liked the food. People were happy with our attractions. It was a great weekend for the community of Cloverdale.”
Sheppard said final attendance numbers were still being tallied, but noted the number will land somewhere north of 70,000.
Rick Hugh, 1st vice-president of the Cloverdale Rodeo Association, said attendance was up from 2019 when that number was in the mid-50,000 range.
“We also had four of our five rodeo performances sold out,” added Sheppard.
The ultimate highlight for her was getting to see so many people having fun at rodeo once again.
“My favourite part of the weekend was just seeing the smiling faces and the people on the Grounds and the families,” she explained. “Everywhere you went, everybody was happy. People were so happy to be here and so excited to walk the Grounds and be amongst other people and just enjoy an afternoon out.”
Sheppard said the unsung heroes for the weekend were the Cloverdale Rodeo Association volunteers, which number about 300, and all the staff and workers that help put on the event.
“I just want to thank everyone for everything they did. They made the event a success.”
During the Sunday afternoon rodeo performance, there was a tribute to all the people the Rodeo Association has lost over the past four years.
“These people had spent decades helping with the fair and/or the rodeo,” explained Hugh. “It involved a rider on a horse leading a riderless horse behind them.”
Hugh said each person that had passed away in the previous 4 years was named and there was a little bit said about each one.
“We’ve lost over 10 members from our Association since our last rodeo in 2019,” Sheppard said.
Sheppard added it was quite an emotional experience to witness the riderless horse move through the Stetson Bowl while hearing the names of those members that had passed.
Sheppard also said Cowboy Church was held again on Sunday morning in the Stetson suite and it was well-attended. She said the goal is to make it even bigger.
“We want to actually try and host it in the Stetson Arena for next year.”
Sheppard noted this year’s Cloverdale Rodeo Youth Initiative Foundation (CRYIF) pancake breakfast was also an incredible success. CRYIF holds the breakfast on Rodeo Sunday as a fundraiser for the Foundation’s scholarship fund. For a $5 donation, attendees got flapjacks and free entrance to the Cloverdale Fairgrounds that day.
“Our Pancake breakfast did over $2,000,” Sheppard revealed. “ That’s the biggest we’ve ever done. So right there, that’s paying for another scholarship.”
Hugh added it was satisfying to watch a successful event unfold before his eyes, especially after having been so intimately involved in its preparation.
“We all went into it crossing our fingers,” he explained. “We knew what kind of hard work and hours we put in, but a significant portion of the board was new and we hadn’t been involved personally with that end of the event. So, looking back on it now, it’s pretty gratifying to think that we had a part in something that brought so much pleasure to people.”
Sheppard said she’s already looking forward to the 2024 Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair. She added they’ll get going on 2024 in about a week or two.
“We’re going to do a debrief next week or the week after and we’ve got some great plans for next year, so we’re really excited.”