Saddle up for the Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair

It's on the minds of even the most ardent rodeo fans: Excited about this weekend’s 65th annual Cloverdale Rodeo and 122nd Country Fair but don’t want to miss playoff games? Fear not.

It’s on the minds of even the most ardent rodeo fans: Excited about this weekend’s 65th annual Cloverdale Rodeo and 122nd Country Fair but don’t want to miss playoff games?

Fear not. Both games over Rodeo weekend will be played live at the Longhorn Saloon, at 6 p.m. Friday and noon Sunday.

“We’ve put some large screens into the Longhorn Saloon so people can keep up with the Canucks’ progress,” says Dave Melenchuk, general manager of the Cloverale Rodeo and Exhibition Association.

And during rodeo performances, he says, “We’ll make sure we keep the scores updated. There’s no reason to stay away.”

Dealing with a rare Canucks playoff scenario is all part of the planning process when you’re getting ready to host thousands of guests. The rodeo draws up to 80,000 visitors to the fairgrounds each May long weekend, including 20,000 rodeo spectators.

“Over the past 65 years, I think they’ve faced everything that can happen,” says Melenchuk.

If hockey’s not your bag, there’s plenty of other diversions on hand. A thrilling roller derby exhibition, monster truck rides, a family movie night under the stars, and the West Coast Lumberjack Show are just a few of the attractions in store.

There’s also the Fraser Valley’s largest midway, the new Extreme Zone, new features in the Kidz Zone, free music and entertainment at the outdoor entertainment stage and more.

Small wonder Melenchuk describes the price of admission to the Country Fair as “It’s the best 12 bucks you can spend.”

 This year’s free Sunday night concert is by Doug and the Slugs. Later, the Stetson Bowl hosts its first-ever free family-friendly movie, How to Train Your Dragon, an animated contemporary classic showing at dusk.

Check out the world famous Longhorn Saloon for great country music with long-time favourite Ken McCoy and Appaloosa, featuring a new female vocalist, Langley resident Randi McMillan.

All that, and the world’s top cowboys and cowgirls in saddle bronc, bareback, bull riding and ladies’ barrel racing, competing for $360,000 in prize money.

For the first time this year, visitors will be able to buy tickets to rodeo performances and general country fair admission online at the Cloverdale Rodeo website.

Adding a roller derby exhibition came together quite by accident – Melenchuk happened to be walking to his car after a board meeting one night when fate intervened.

“I was the late one out of here for the evening. And there were a couple of young ladies all decked out in roller derby equipment who had parked next to me.”

Turns out, the team practices at the Cloverdale Curling Club next door to rodeo headquarters.

“The bells went off in my head. Would you like to be part of rodeo?” he asked. “Oh my god, we’d LOVE to!” they replied.

The Cowgirls and Rollerskates derby takes place May 21-22 at the Cloverdale Curling Rink, in a section of the country fair called the Extreme Zone, which also features BMX bike and skateboard demos, monster truck rides, and the West Coast Lumberjack Show – back after a hiatus.

“It was just so popular,” says Melenchuk. “It’s one of the things that’s the roots of the country fair, and in B.C., logging is part of our heritage.”

Rides on the Re-Max hot air balloon will be available by donation at Millennium Amphitheatre Park next to the Cloverdale fairgrounds.

Last night, members of the B.C. Lions, the Felines cheer squad and rodeo stars were part of a kick off tailgate party at the Agriplex, an affair that replaced the traditional opening night concert.

“Traditionally, they’ve tried to do a kick off concert, to varying degrees of success. We’re going to do something a little bit different this year.” There’s also plenty to see and do in the historic town centre, which always revs up the rodeo spirit with events like the Cloverdale Rodeo Parade, Saturday, May 21 from 10 a.m. to noon.

This year, check out more than 80 entries and 1,200 participants. Watch for vintage cars, horses, dancers, marching bands, community groups and so much more.

If you need a lift to the fairgrounds, hop on a shuttle bus for a free ride to your destination throughout the weekend.

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