You had to put a quarter in the last horse Dave Melenchuk rode.
“But they hired me anyway,” jokes Melenchuk, the new general manager of the Cloverdale Rodeo and Exhibition Association, betraying his good-humoured Nova Scotian roots.
A White Rock resident since 1995, he started his new job Nov. 15, ending a five-month long search to fill the position.
He comes from a background in resort management and the hospitality industry; his last job was vice president of business development of Stanford Hotels and Resorts Inc., an Alberta-based chain with a resort in Fernie, B.C.
As general manager of the Cloverdale Rodeo and Exhibition Association, he’ll be responsible for setting long and short-term strategies for the rodeo and fairgrounds, home to a number of aging facilities that are in use all year long, hosting more than 1,000 events annually.
“The facilities are tired,” he says. “We have to look at upgrades going forward. That’s probably the biggest challenge.”
The good news is the rodeo is well-known, enjoying a brand-recognition factor with young and old.
“You talk to anybody and they know the Cloverdale Rodeo,” he says, pointing out even his 22-year-old niece is excited about his new job. “It tells you that the longevity is there. There’s always new and fresh faces joining.”
Planning is already underway for the 65th Cloverale Rodeo and 122nd Country Fair, slated for May 20 to 23.
“What we want to do is everything we can to enhance the fair and the rodeo and respond to the feedback of the people who have been coming for years and see if we can expand some of the events,” he said.
Although new to the job, he’s struck by the commitment of the many volunteers who turn up to put on the rodeo each year.
“There’s a real strong core of dedicated volunteers that have been involved for many, many years,” he says, adding he’s able to draw on their experience in learning the rodeo ropes. “They’ve been through this process so many times.”
He says many facets of the job attracted him, including the long history of the rodeo and of the association itself (it was originally established in 1888, he says).
Also, he says, “I knew this was not going to be boring.”
The association launched a nation-wide search in June, just weeks after last year’s fair wrapped up, when long-serving general manager Bob Matwiv left his position.
Association president Shannon Claypool said Melenchuk has a strong track record of strategic business development.
“As we continue to evolve our event, it’s extremely important that we have someone with a strong sense of vision for growing the association and its programs,” Claypool said.