The first British Columbia Rodeo Association rodeo signalling the start of the rodeo season in the province has been cancelled.
Williams Lake Indoor Rodeo Association president Kelly Walls said it is with heavy hearts that the WLIRA has made the decision to cancel its 30th annual spring rodeo due to COVID-19.
“Following the guidelines of health authorities, and out of concern and care for everyone’s safety, we are exercising an abundance of caution in dealing with the novel coronavirus,” Walls said.
“It is of utmost importance to limit or slow the spread of the illness in our community — in all communities.”
Each year a dedicated group of hard-working volunteers in Williams Lake come together to make the event a memorable one.
The WLIR at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex kicks off the first event of the British Columbia Rodeo Association (BCRA) season, and is anticipated by athletes, fans and stock contractors, along with various vendors, every year.
Annually, thousands of fans from Williams Lake and abroad attend the rodeo.
Walls noted the rodeo is also a powerful opportunity for many local businesses who sponsor the event.
“We’ve had many of the same loyal sponsors year in and year out,” she said. “We do our level best to bring awareness to and promote those sponsors with our advertising, because we genuinely appreciate their support and contributions.”
She said the loss from not hosting the rodeo will be felt among retailers, restaurants, hotels and fuel suppliers.
Additionally, entertainment and the annual WLIR barn dance has become a tradition for many in the community. Walls said there is no other event quite like it.
“We’ve proudly sponsored the ‘Safe Ride Home’ program for several years,” said Janna Gertzen, owner of Adventure Charters inter-city bus service, which has buses parked outside the arena making several, scheduled shuttle trips throughout the night to safely transport patrons from the beverage gardens and dance to their homes.
“We certainly understand why the rodeo had to be cancelled this year, but it’s sad, and a definite loss for the region.”
Walls added there are always new challenges when organizing any event, but this is a unique one.
She said the WLIRA board of directors has vowed to make the best use of the additional time they’ll have this year, to continue to grow and improve the event.
“We would like to thank everyone for their continued support and we look forward to seeing you in 2021,” she said.