The reins have been passed on for the 101-year-old Falkland Stampede, but the tradition is staying with the family.
Jason Churchill stepped down last year as manager of the Rodeo after 15 years and his daughter Melissa Churchill is filling the managerial boots for the May long weekend event.
“My whole family rodeos and we’ve always grown up at the Stampede because my grandpa put the Rodeo on before my dad,” said Melissa, 27. “I really wanted to keep the tradition going.”
The Rodeo goes Saturday 1 p.m., Sunday 2 p.m. and Monday 1 p.m. at the stampede grounds off Highway 97. From saddle bronc riding and bull riding to a concession with ample food choices and booths for kids, there’s something for everyone. Plus there’s Cowboy Church Sunday at 10 a.m., the Parade Sunday at 1 p.m., Heavy Horse Pull Monday at 11 a.m. and a daily pancake breakfast from 8-11. Stick around for the dances Saturday and Sunday at 9 p.m. with Lindsey May and the Mayhem at the Falkland Community Hall. Tickets to all the events are available at the gate/door or online at www.falklandstampede.ca.
“We usually do sell out,” said Churchill, as she urges people to buy tickets in advance for the dance.
So far approximately 500 Rodeo tickets have sold online, a new concept offered for those wanting to ensure a seat. But there’s expected to be hundreds more as gate sales are usually the biggest.
Falkland is the next stop on the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association schedule, which the CPRA calls the “legendary Falkland Stampede.”
“We’ve gotten a lot busier and more contestants,” said Churchill of the growth she has watched over the years. “We have contestants coming from as far as Texas.
“We’ve really had an increase in our half-time act. This year we’ve got Full Throttle Trick Riders and a little girl, she’s only nine years old, and she does Roman riding on her three ponies. She stands on their back and rides through a ring of fire.”
Churchill is excited that the Parade didn’t have to be cancelled – thanks to a community volunteer who stepped up to put it on.
“One of my biggest memories would be my dad riding in the parade, watching him lead the parade,” said Churchill, who when she’s not organizing the event she works at the Kamloops hospital as a pharmacy technician.
Although this is her first year in the general manager saddle, Churchill is well versed in the rodeo world.
“For the last five years I’ve played the music during the rodeo, working with the announcer. And of course helping out the weeks before the rodeo for days and days working at the grounds getting it ready.”
Despite the pressure of the new title, Churchill has an entire family, community and friends pitching in to make sure the event goes off without a hitch – including her grandpa.
“He’s proud, he’s there to help me too if I need,” said Churchill Thursday, as she prepared to show some Falkland Elementary School kids around the grounds.
While the family tradition continues, the Churchill name may not be as prominent since the new general manager is also planning a wedding in August and will be taking on a new name.