statue of coowboy in Williams Lake

Saddle Up for the Williams Lake Stampede!

Saddle Up for the Williams Lake Stampede!

Time stands still inside the chute. And yet with every second, the rider is jostling for a better seat and a tighter grip. The tension is as thick as the mud underfoot. It is in this moment that a rider feels closest to the beast about to be unleashed. A storm is breaking, and all that’s left to do is to hold on for eight seconds. The bells sound and the gate swings open. Eight seconds. Hold on!

The best way to describe a cowboy is mud, blood, guts, and glory. You’ve seen the cowboys and rodeos in movies, but you can see the real thing every year in Williams Lake, British Columbia. The Williams Lake Stampede is the “greatest show on dirt” featuring top rodeo performances, and you can experience the excitement this summer over the Canada Day long weekend from June 27th to July 1st.

williams lake area with bridge

What is Williams Lake Stampede?

Held every year on the Canada Day long weekend, the Williams Lake Stampede has excited fans from all over the country for 93 years running. Folks come from far and wide to witness the non-stop action from all of the top cowboys hailing from both Canada and the United States.

The Stampede has something to satisfy any rodeo fan, including bull riding, barrel racing, bareback riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling and team roping. The cowboys competing for the top prize will continue on the circuit to the famed Calgary Stampede.

man riding horse in williams lake stampede

Photo Courtesy of Moosealope | Williams Lake Stampede

Williams Lake Stampede History

Located in the heart of British Columbia’s interior, Williams Lake is a large trade and service area with a population of well over 50,000 people. The city is a nexus, the main business and shopping area for many in the ranching industry.

Ranchers market their cattle from the stockyards in Williams Lake, taking stock from as far south as Clinton, as far north as Quesnel, west to Bella Coola, and as far east as Horsefly. It was the Pacific Great Eastern Railway in 1919 that placed the town on the map, much to the favour of local ranchers. The arrival of railway travel saw the creation of the first organized Williams Lake Stampede.

man riding a bronco in Williams Lake Stampede

Photo Courtesy of Arnold | Williams Lake 2010 Stampede

The rodeo is held at the very same site as the first annual production in 1919. In the earliest days of the Stampede, competing cowboys were locals and wanted little more than to show off their talents and skills. Over time, the rodeo grew into something larger than most anyone would have imagined. Today’s rodeo is a huge production that spans both Canada and the United States. As the show continued to expand, there came a special, locals-only competition called the Ranch Challenge, where local cowboys from nearby ranches compete against each other for the year’s bragging rights.

Activities & To-Do’s

The Williams Lake Stampede is more than one rodeo competition; fun and excitement await the young and old. Here are the highlights, but click here for a full schedule of events.

CPRA Rodeo

The main event is the CPRA Rodeo from June 27th to 30th. Performances include saddle bronc riding, ladies’ barrel racing, steer wrestling, and bull riding. Hold onto your hats folks. This is the show you don’t want to miss.

crowd of people in cowboy hats at rodeo

Events & Entertainment

Local favourite events include the Death Defying Mountain Race & the Wild Cowgirls Race, and Full Throttle Trick Riding will be sure to delight. Intermission entertainment is Shelby Pierson with special guest Piper Yule. Returning this year is Jayson Charters, rodeo clown extraordinaire!

July 1st brings you to the Cariboo Heritage Gathering, a festival-like event with local music, vendors, games for kids, and more. Also on July 1st, the Ranch Rodeo takes place as the local cowboys and cowgirls compete in tests of rancher skill. Canada Day also marks the finals of the Death Defying Mountain Race & the Wild Cowgirls Race, so make sure you’re there!

man riding bronco in williams lake stampede

Photo Courtesy of Arnold | Williams Lake 2010 Stampede

Animal Athletes Tour & Stampede Parade

Don’t miss your chance to learn a thing or two about the sport of rodeo. Stop on by the Animal Athletes Tour held behind the bucking chutes at 9 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday is also the ever-popular Daybreak Rotary Club’s Stampede Parade starting at 10 a.m., downtown.

Fun for the Kids

At this family fun event, there are plenty of activities for kids and parents to enjoy together at the Kids Korral. The rodeo’s youngest guests can enjoy live music on the Let ‘R Buck stage, play carnival games, get their face painted, and devour delicious eats from many food vendors at the Bronc Buster trade fair.

small child getting their face painted

Concerts

Still looking for more fun? Check out the scene at Let ‘R Buck Saloon in the evenings for live music on the Sandtronic Concert Stage. You can expect to see Aaron Pritchett, Karen Lee Batten, bluegrass-country-rock-inspired trio Rollin’ Trainwreck, and Dave Hartney. There is plenty of food and ice-cold beverages for thirsty stampeders as well. Just a friendly reminder that there’s a cover charge at the gate and event-goers must be at least 19 years of age. Shuttle service is also provided for a safe ride home or back to your hotel.

Where to Stay

Out-of-towners will need a place to take off their boots and hang their hats. Coast Fraser Inn fits the bill with all the comforts and hospitality you’d expect from friendly Williams Lake.

exterior of coast fraser inn

Amenities & features include:

● Free Wi-Fi
● Complimentary hot breakfast
● Free parking
● Fitness Centre
● Hot tub
● Pet-friendly rooms
● Beer and wine store within walking distance

Coast Fraser Inn is just blocks from the centre of town while also close to a host of outdoor activities for before or after the Stampede including hiking, fishing, whitewater rafting, mountain biking, and more.

Book your stay at the Coast Fraser Inn today and be ready for the Williams Lake Stampede!