Cloverdale Rodeo, where city meets country

As a city girl, it’s not every day I get the opportunity to attend a rodeo or a country fair. So when the chance came up to attend one, I jumped on it.

The 66th annual Cloverdale Rodeo and 124th Country Fair in Surrey takes place each May, giving city folk like me a chance to experience a long standing tradition. The family-friendly long weekend is usually jam packed with different events, including rodeo action, live entertainment, and the ever-so-popular fair rides.

Walking in, I was completely surprised by presence of copious amounts of cowboy hats.  My outfit was planned to look like a cowgirl, but lacking the hat made a huge difference. Still, I had no idea the cowboy or rodeo culture was so big in the Vancouver area. Even in the rain, rodeo fans huddled under the stands to cheer for the cowboys and cowgirls in the arena.

“The crowds that attend this event indicate that there is a real love for rodeo. We get people that visit this event from all over the province, as well as Washington State and Alberta,” said Laura Ballant, spokesperson for the Colverdale Rodeo. “And the cowboys come from around the world. We have cowboys from Australia, New Zealand, the United States.”

With sold out rodeo performances, it really shows the amount of support for this annual event. According to Ballant, about 80,000 people stroll through the rodeo and fair during the May long weekend.  “It’s really the kick off event for summer,” she said.

I watched the rodeo to try and understand the sport, which really isn’t easy to follow- in my opinion. I was amazed at the interest and focus the crowds had, as I listened to the fans behind me break down each cowboy’s scores. Even listening to them, I still felt a big lost. But the point wasn’t to try to understand all the four rodeo events during my first visit, it was about the overall experience of being at a rodeo. Although I did learn the names of the four main events: Bareback, Saddle Bronc, Bull Riding, and Ladies Barrel Racing. The rodeo prize pool consisted of $300,000.

“The four events that’s we run here are the four favourites with our guests,” said Ballant.

At one point, I lost my friends to the beer tent, so I walked around the fair grounds to eat. There were so many food options, from Thai to wings. But I was on a mission with one food in mind. The best thing about fairs in Canada has to be beaver tails. I don’t understand why these aren’t just served at restaurants? Delicious sugary delight.

There was a classic car show that featured 75 to 100 hot rods and classic cars worth millions of dollars, another thing you don’t see in the city everyday.

As the rodeo ended, and the massive cowboy-hat-wearing crowds of all ages exited the arena, it looked like the end of a country music concert. “This is truly a family-friendly event that the entire community could come out and enjoy, whether you are interested in rodeo or the country fair side,” Ballant said.

And despite the rain, I’d say my first rodeo experience -although I still don’t quite understand the sport- was a success. By the end I was rocking out in my friend’s cowboy hat and posing for photos infront of the arena. Country fashion mission: complete.

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