May’s Victoria long weekend marks another Cloverdale rodeo, one of North America’s longest running rodeos and country fair. And on this, its 73rd year it returns with plenty of competitions, live entertainment, food, and fun for kids and adults of all ages. We visited opening night and there was plenty that we didn’t get to see with scheduled performances and live exhibitions, so I do suggest planning to visit across multiple days in the future. The following is what we did enjoy and a few things to look forward to for the rest of the weekend, and next year.
The main attraction is definitely the Invitational Rodeo, featuring the world’s best Cowboys and Cowgirls, competing for cash prizes in this roughstock rodeo. Roughstock refers to horse and bulls not kept for meat, but instead for events like Saddle Bronc Riding, Bareback Riding, Bull Riding, and Ladies Barrel Racing.
The rodeo is like any other sporting event with the performing of both the US and Canadian national anthems to begin with, but with an opening ceremony that has flag bearers marching on horses as well.
Saddle Bronc Riding, Bareback Riding, and Bull Riding have contestants aiming to stay on their hoofed animals for no more than 8 seconds. Eight seconds is enough time for the judges to critique each rider based on their ability and flare during the bucking. Bronc riding can be either done bareback or with a saddle, while the horse attempts to throw off the rider. Only men participate in the above mentioned sports, but the women do have their own event; more on that below.
After each round of competition the winning rider takes a lap around the pen. They are also available after the rodeo for a meet and greet, where they take photos and sign autographs.
And unlike any other sport, a rodeo has clowns. Rodeo clowns in proper cowboy boots and a purple cowboy hat. They not only entertain the children with their painted faces and wrangler overalls, but they also stand at the ready in case a horse or bull needs to be distracted, and the rider pulled from harm’s way. But best of all, in between matches, they pass out lollipops to the crowd.
Ladies Barrel Racing is more about delicate accuracy; it has one rider on her horse going as fast as she can, while circling 3 strategically placed barrels. Knocking a barrel over adds 5 seconds to their time. And 5 seconds is a lot when the winner is the fastest to complete the track with no mistakes.
There is even a bucking event for the kids. Mutton Bustin gives 5 children in the audience the opportunity to ride an adult sheep. Children 3 years and older, and under 45 lbs. They must be wearing a long sleeved shirt, long pants, and running shoes; and are equipped with a helmet for safety. This portion of the rodeo was quick, the kids get on and fall off immediately. The result, a small tumble, and all the sheep who have lost their rider gathering together in the opposite corner. Like all the other rounds, time matters here, and the kid on the longest, wins.
The other events/shows are scattered around the fair grounds for spectators to approach and watch. Like the “West Coast Lumberjack Show”, performing all around the work since 1982. Strong men in flannel compete head to head in competitions such as the chair carve, hot saw race, axe throwing, log rolling, and standing block chop.
There is also musical entertainment between two live stages. The “Lordco stage” is located outdoors in the food truck area, with a congregating audience, by the drink garden.
And an indoor stage set up in the Agriplex, that is transformed into “Longhorn Saloon” for the long weekend. Here, there were more bars and a large dance floor.
If standing and watching isn’t your speed, there are plenty of games and rides to have your adrenaline going. Fan favourites like the Ferris wheel and merry-go-round are present, along with plenty of high flying and fast spinning rides. There are also plenty of games to test your skills and win stuffed prizes at.
And like any good fair there are plenty of deep fried and sugary sweet snacks to help keep you going all day. Majority of the vendors drove up in their food trucks, and have parked for the weekend. Many were familiar sights that I remembered from past years at the PNE. Like a gourmet poutine truck, one that offered up variations on the classic Mac and cheese, deep fried chocolate, mini doughnuts, and there was even a truck offering up bubble tea.
We enjoyed dinner at “Super long hot dogs”, serving up a foot long beef wieners on buns that match in length. My guest had the classic topped with fresh fried onions.
And I went for the new “King Spammy” topped with spam and pineapples warmed on their grill. This was the first time the employees working this stand had to make this; they tried their best, but this did not taste like a $13 hot dog. It was missing the cilantro that the menu listed, and the spam left in slabs were a nuisance to eat. As for taste, it tasted exactly as it sounds and it was lacking. It could have used some sweet mayo for moisture and a sauce for flavour. I found myself dressing it like a typical hot dog with the typical condiments of ketchup, relish, and mustard.
I had to try the new flaming hot Cheeto corn dog from “Chicky’s chicken”. This was your typical hot dog wiener battered in a sweet dough, coated in cheese; then rolled in crushed up, neon orange coloured Cheeto dust. It was salty and sweet with a touch of heat. But the flavour wore out quick, and I found myself craving for a sauce, something tangy to dip in, like sour cream.
But my favourite was the barbecue from the “Rib fest”, where award winning BBQ vendors were firing up their grill and offering up saucy cuts of meat.
There was also plenty of drinks to purchase. Plastic cups of wine, beer, and cider; varying ounces at $7.50 a serving. You purchase tickets from the booth adjacent, then redeem them at the pour bar.
And for those who want to do a little shopping, there is also a handful of vendors selling home made goods, services, and clothing from tented stalls. Soaps, dyed wraps and scarves, hammocks, and cowboy hats; to name a few. But be warm, many of them are cash only.
In short the Cloverdale rodeo is a fun tradition and a great way to get your family and friends out and about in Surrey. And every night, festivities end on a high note with a fireworks show, visible from any point on the fair and rodeo ground. And that itself is worth coming out for.
6050A 176 Steet, Surrey BC