Falkland’s first stampede wasn’t a stampede at all.
In the book on the community’s history, “Meeting of the Winds,” by Marjorie M. Selody, an event was planned to celebrate the end of the First World War — a large picnic.
On March 24, 1919, people enthusiastically came to the event by wagon, buggy, horseback and car to the gyp field in the northwest corner of the townsite. There were races, lots of food and homemade ice cream.
From this picnic grew the Falkland Stampede, which celebrates its 100th anniversary on the May long weekend.
“I can remember attending as a kid,” said Ozzie Leaf, longtime local businessman and stampede supporter who was born in Vernon but who has lived in Falkland for almost all of his 89 years and 11 months (he’s currently on Vancouver Island living with family after having surgery).
“I would walk to the stampede with my school buddies. It’s a major event for Falkland. I couldn’t wait for the May long weekend.”
The Falkland Stampede, the 100th edition, runs Saturday to Monday with rodeo shows at 1 p.m. Saturday and Monday, and 2 p.m. Sunday, which follows the annual parade with the traditional start time of 1 p.m.
One of the first stampede bucking horses ever mentioned was a large roan belonging to CNR employee Dave Hill, who was sure that Cariboo cowboy Chris English could not ride the horse.
“English stayed on for a few seconds, but stayed sprawled on the ground much longer,” wrote Selody.
A May Queen was added to the annual festivities in 1931, and she was chosen by her fellow students from Glenemma, Falkland and Westwold schools. Maypole dancers performed for the newly elected queen.
In 1964, the first Falkland Stampede Queen was crowned.
For the 100th, many former May Queens and Stampede Queens are returning for the milestone weekend and will be featured prominently in Sunday’s parade.
“One is 90 years old. One is coming from New York City. One is coming from Ontario,” said stampede manager Jason Churchill. Heritage Park will open at 10 a.m. for a meet and greet with the queens on the Sunday prior to the parade at 1 p.m.”
The 1936 Stampede Dance was hosted in the brand new Falkland Community Hall, which was filled to capacity. The Cariboo Rangers from Kamloops provided the music.
Two years later, the Falkland and District community association purchased 11 acres west of town for recreational and stampede grounds. The stampede has been held annually at the site ever since.
The stampede turned pro in 1969 and registered with the Cowboys Protective Association, a major step for a small community. Attendance at the rodeo continued to grow and in 1970 it was decided to carry the stampede into two days, which then evolved to the current three-day fare. The parade date was changed in 1975 from Monday to Sunday.
The rodeo, as always, features North America’s best cowboys and cowgirls, along with international competitors, going for cash prizes and to improve their standings on the Canadian Pro Rodeo Association tour, where the top athletes qualify for the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton every November.
“A big part of why our rodeo is so successful is the tradition,” said Churchill. “We’ve stuck to the roots. Our rodeo crowd are true rodeo fans. They bring their kids and pass it down. People are surprised by the calibre of the show.”
Adding to the calibre of the competition is the halftime entertainment.
Whereas the first picnic had games and races, the 100th stampede features the legendary cowboy act The One Armed Bandit from Oklahoma.
The bandit is John Payne, who lost his right arm at age 20 in an electrical accident in 1973. He has been named the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s entertainer of the year 15 times in his 30 years on the rodeo circuit.
His act includes buffalo herding.
“He’s one of the finest acts in rodeo and he’ll perform each day,” said Churchill, who is a second generation stampede manager.
His father, Mervin, is a former manager and, at age 76, is still helping out and helping plan the milestone stampede.
“He’s pretty excited,” said Jason. “He’s helping drum up sponsorship, calling in favours.”
Leaf has secured special 100th Falkland Stampede commemorative metal lapel pins which will be available throughout the long weekend at various events.
For more information on the 100th annual Falkland Stampede, visit www.falklandstampede.ca.