Countdown begins to 2013 Cloverdale Rodeo

After two years of washout weather, Surrey's biggest attraction is bouncing back, offering a big discount for families.

A barrel racer competes at the Cloverdale Rodeo in 2011. Gate admission and rodeo performance tickets are free for children aged 12 and under in 2013.

A barrel racer competes at the Cloverdale Rodeo in 2011. Gate admission and rodeo performance tickets are free for children aged 12 and under in 2013.

With less than two months to go until the 67th annual Cloverdale Rodeo and 125th Country Fair, organizers have announced a big discount for families with children.

Children 12 and under will receive free admission to rodeo performances – and on gate admission to the country fair – provided they’re accompanied by an adult this May long weekend in Cloverdale.

The move expands a discount for children’s gate admissions floated last year at Surrey’s biggest tourist attraction, which appeared poised to burst all previous attendance records until bad weather arrived, putting a damper on the final two days of the event.

“We got off to a great start on Saturday and we would have had a world beater, probably one of the best weekends ever,” Claypool, president of the Cloverdale Rodeo and Exhibition Association told members at last week’s annual general meeting.

“But the weather gods didn’t cooperate and it rained for three days,” Claypool said. “It wasn’t a great year.”

Gate admission will be $12, down from $20 in 2012, and rodeo performances will be $20, a drop of $5. “Our rationale is we’d rather have mom and dad and two kids at 64 bucks come into the country fair, go to the rodeo, stay longer, and spend more money on the rides,” Claypool said.

Despite the downpour, the association’s financial picture isn’t all gloom and doom, and the board is looking forward with optimism to this year’s rodeo and country fair.

“The majority of our contracts are signed and things are working well for us,” second vice president and Rodeo Chair Penny Smythe said. “Now we just have to all pray here for nice weather.”

Last year’s washout meant the association was forced to dip into next year’s operating grant from the city of Surrey for the second year in a row.

That generous city support is solid, according to Coun. Marvin Hunt, one of the city’s reps on the association’s board.

“You are what has put Surrey on the map years ago and will continue to keep Surrey on the map for many years to come,” Hunt said, thanking the association and its many volunteers, who logged 8,000 hours in 2012.

“We really value your time, your commitment, and your love for the rodeo. On behalf of the mayor and council, thank you so very much.” added that the city is working with the Canada Public Private Partnerships program because it’s still hoping to one day build a convention facility on the site that would be large enough to accommodate the rodeo, bringing it indoors. “And then we can just have a real good party instead of worrying about the weather every May long weekend,” he said.

[At left, making new friends at the dino display at the Cloverdale Rodeo – file photo]

The city’s operating grant to the association is $775,000, but only a portion of that goes to the rodeo and country fair to help pay for prize money awarded to winners of the four main rodeo events, saddle bronc, bull riding, bareback and ladies barrel racing.

The majority – $550,000 – pays for the day-to-day operations of the fairgrounds.

Hunt stressed that the combined grant is “a great deal for the city” because it gets so much in return.

That’s because in addition to managing the annual rodeo and fair, which brings in millions of revenue in the city of Surrey, the Cloverdale Rodeo and Exhibition Association is responsible for year-round management of the eight facilities on the fairgrounds.

A drop in attendance can have a big impact on finances, especially by the end of the year, treasurer Gerry Spielmacher said, delivering his report March 13. “If we could get a good year behind us, we could get our finances back in really good, strong order.”

Last year’s challenges forced the board of directors to make a number of changes, including ending the contract of general manager Dave Melenchuk.

Mike MacSorley, a former vice president of the PNE, was hired in October, and he’s hired several new staff members, including a new events manager, office administrator and accountant.

“The association is looking hard at ways it can continue to mitigate the financial risk it incurs in being an outdoor event in the Lower Mainland,” spokesperson Laura Ballance said Tuesday, adding MacSorley has assembled a team that will take the association in the right direction.

“They had a tough year but they’ll bounce back.”

In offering free admission for both events to children 12 and under, the association hopes to appeal to more families by making it more affordable.

Last year, there was a gate discount for children under 6, but the public found it confusing, MacSorley said.

Along with the world’s top-ranked cowboys and cowgirls, the 2013 Cloverdale Rodeo May 17 to 20 will feature additional competitions, including the always-popular Mutton Bustin, the Rib Fest and BBQ Competition, and will see return of the World Freestyle Round-Up Skateboarding Competition.

B.C.’s largest midway will also return, along with the Kidz Zone, Classic Car Show, and more, including performances by the Ken McCoy Band and Dr. Strangelove, and B.C. Country Music female vocalist for 2012, AJ Woodworth.

See related: “Rodeo roping in new volunteers”

Penny Smythe: the Spirit of Rodeo

Thousands Expected at Cloverdale Rodeo and Country Fair

“Slideshow: Sunny Skies Help Launch Rodeo

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