Contestants will be nursing many a bruise after the weekend’s festivities. Observer file/Karen Powell photo

Quesnel Rodeo celebrates 53 years of rough and tumble fun

Organizers look to make up for last year’s cancelled festivities

Quesnel’s storied western tradition will continue with the 53rd annual Quesnel Rodeo from July 19-22.

After last year’s wildfires resulted in the event being cancelled, organizers are eager to put on the best show they can to make up for it.

Alex Fraser Park has been undergoing upgrades to facilities all spring to ensure the rough and tumble festivities will be enjoyed in the best possible conditions.

Bucking horses, snorting bulls and cattle will be trucked into the city on Wednesday and Thursday (July 18-19).

“We’ll be giving them a little training session on Thursday, where we show them all the gates and train them all on how to get in-and-out of the arena,” says Quesnel Rodeo president Ray Jasper.

“Rodeo cattle know the program, so once you show it to them, they get it.”

READ MORE: Quesnel bullriders tops in Williams Lake

A gymkhana meet for locals young, old and anywhere in between will be held on Thursday night, starting at 6 p.m.

The Bouchie Lake and North Cariboo Gymkhana Clubs will both be in attendance, competing in barrel racing, keyhole racing and pole bending.

Jasper says there will be prize money and buckles up for grabs for the contestants, and the evening will wrap up with a Midnight Run Barrel Race – all in all, an excellent start to the weekend.

On Friday starting at noon, a slack performance will commence. In a slack rodeo, all the competitors that can’t be fit into the regular performance due to time constraints will be showcased.

Jasper estimates it will be a three- to four-hour show that will include timed events like team roping and barrel racing.

Novice rodeo competitors will get their chance to shine on Friday night.

Novice bull riding, novice bareback and novice saddle bronc competitions are on display to encourage young people that want to get involved.

“We try to help them get a start in the rodeo world,” says Jasper.

“It’s something we’re focused on to continue the tradition for the next generation.”

Fans and riders alike are encouraged to wear pink to support the Canadian Cancer Society’s breast cancer awareness initiative.

READ MORE: Quesnel’s Pony Club is a fun learning experience

The adult competitors will try their hands at similar events on Saturday and Sunday, culminating in a steak dinner fundraiser, with proceeds to BC Children’s Hospital, from 4 p.m., followed by the annual Barn Dance at 9 p.m. at the Agriplex Arena with band Trick Ryder.

Jasper explains the rodeo traces its roots back to cowboys coming to town from the ranches and showing off their skills.

People would gather from far and wide for their chance to meet up with neighbours and relatives and exchange stories, test their abilities and have a great time with those they might just see once a year.

The economic impact is significant.

Well over $1 million is spent in Quesnel by between 8,000 and 10,000 visitors who make their way through Alex Fraser Park’s gates.

For those interested in attending, tickets are available at the door, or cheaper advance tickets are available at Circle “S” Western Wear on Reid Street downtown Quesnel, and Hub International Insurance on Rita Road in South Quesnel.

Admission to the dance is by advance purchase ticket purchase only. Tickets will be available Circle “S” Western Wear. Any remaining tickets will be offered for sale during the rodeo at the Quesnel Rodeo Club Office, Alex Fraser Park.

More information can be found at Quesnelrodeo.com

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