Dillon Giancola: So long, rodeo season


As much as I try to fool myself by still wearing shorts, it’s not summer anymore. Shocker, I know. But as I begin to make the switch to fall, the start of hockey season and other sports around the corner, I find myself wishing there was one more local rodeo I could go to.

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The three First Nations rodeos at Blueberry River, Doig River, and Halfway River were a blast this summer. I look forward to them each year, and had been to each once before, but this was the first summer I attended all three. On the surface, they might not look that much different from the local pro rodeo in Fort St. John, or the high school rodeos. The rodeos feature much of the same athletes, after all.

But it’s the atmosphere, the location, and the setups that stand out. Rodeo is a family sport — something cowboys and cowgirls do on their farm with their parents growing up even outside of competition — and the First Nations are no different. All who make it out, whether local or from out of town, are happy to be there, are glad to be a part of it, and are proud to continue the tradition. All three of these rodeos have been around for more than 20 years, and there’s certainly no end in sight.

Then there are the actual rodeo grounds, which all stand out. The Blueberry River rodeo grounds are at the bottom of a valley, with the stands perched up high above, looking down on the action. The Doig River grounds feature a large, vast ring with awesome bleachers all around the ring. No matter where you sit, you’re in for a great show.

Then there’s the Halfway River rodeo ground. When I was there two years ago, it was sparsely attended, with a couple bleacher stands. Now, in 2019, it was packed, with stands surrounding the ring and with the atmosphere that comes with a full crowd.

Simply put, these rodeos make you happy, or at least that’s the affect they have on me. The entire rodeo season in general makes me feel that way, but these ones take it up a notch.

Sure, the First Nation rodeos might not have the Pro Canada Tour cowboys like you see at the Dawson Creek Stampede, but that’s alright; that’s what makes that rodeo stand out, and what helps lend the Blueberry, Halfway and Doig rodeos its smalltown charm.

But, the summer’s over, and I must look forward. Hockey is here, and I’m as excited as ever. So are the athletes at NPSS, and I can’t wait to see which students will rise to the top and make the jump to college and university athletics a year from now.

Speed skating, figure skating, and the B.C. Winter Games are sure to bring tons of excitement and memories, but for now, I just want to reflect on the small town rodeos; on getting dust in my face, and my camera, or trying to hide out from the rain while making sure I still get the perfect saddle bronc shot. I definitely won’t miss the rodeo clowns we get up here. I think those guys could use some work and new material, but I’ll save that for another day.

Actually, I may have just stumbled on a fantastic idea. Maybe I could be the rodeo clown next year. I was the class clown, and putting some makeup on my face and jeans doesn’t seem that far of a stretch. Plus, I’ll never be able to actually compete in a rodeo. Mostly because I can’t really ride a horse but also because I’m old and nothing good can come from me falling off of a raging bull or bucking bronco.

I’ve always wanted to try stand-up comedy but it seems just a bit too intimidating. Rodeo clowns basically do the same thing but don’t thrive off of laughs. It’s groans they’re going after, and I’m perfect for that.Rodeo clowns are the stop-gap for the fast and furious rodeo action, and at the First Nation rodeos, it’s no different.

Regardless of what my role is at next year’s rodeos, you can guarantee I’ll be there with a smile on my face, a ridiculous button-down shirt, and dust in my hair. OK, fine — dust on my bald head. 

Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at sports@ahnfsj.ca.

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