British Columbia

Lack of interest kills royal competition at this year's Williams Lake Stampede

For only the third time in the history of the WiIlliams Lake Stampede, the royalty competition is cancelled at this weekend's event because there aren't enough eligible competitors. 

Organizers in the Central B.C. city hope to revive the Rodeo Queen contest next year

This year, only one qualified contestant applied to compete for the title of Williams Lake Stampede Queen. (Williams Lake Stampede/Facebook)

For only the third time in the history of the WiIlliams Lake Stampede, the royalty competition is cancelled at this weekend's event because there aren't enough eligible competitors. 

Royalty Program director Patricia 'Patti' Gerhardi says the rodeo queen program in the central Interior city is more than just a competition, it's a chance for young women to challenge themselves and grow as leaders.

"We were a bit devastated that we didn't have it. There's not very many opportunities to put yourself out there for women to stand up at the chance at leadership roles. The stampede queen contest is one of them," Gerhardi says.

The Williams Lake Stampede Queen's crown. (Submitted by Sharon MacDonald)

The Williams Lake Stampede Queen program started in 1931, and the competition has only been suspended twice before. The first time was because of the Second World War. The stampede itself date back to 1920 and runs this Canada Day weekend, drawing cowboys from Canada and the U.S.

Requirements to enter

The rodeo queen competition is typically five to seven weeks long, although in recent years they've condensed it. 

To be eligible you have to be between the ages of 17 and 23, women can't have been married, pregnant or be in a common-law relationship. These rules sound stringent, but they are part of the national competition rules as well so it's difficult to change. This year, only one qualified contestant applied.

Contestants are tested on horsemanship, public speaking, knowledge of Williams Lake and the rodeo. Gerhardi says it requires a commitment of about a year and a half.

Winners of the competition then move on to the Miss Rodeo Canada competition — a four day national pageant that's been running since 1955.

Stampede Princess from 1966. (Submitted by Sharon Anne MacDonald)

Looking forward

Sharon Macdonald volunteers with the Museum of the Cariboo Chilcotin in Williams Lake and has been involved in the competition since 2010 when her daughter Kirsten Braumandl ran and won the title. 

"During her reign, Kirsten grew in so many ways over the next year ... It shaped her education and career path, continued volunteering and [making] many wonderful life-long friends and contacts," says Macdonald.

Her daughter is now an elementary school teacher in Alberta.

Macdonald is interested in figuring out how to bring  the competition to the 21st century. Rodeos in Alberta are also struggling to enlist enough young women in their programs, Macdonald says.  

"How do you change it? ... To make it a little more exciting so that younger women might want to run, but keep core competitions because I definitely see a value."

For only the third time in its history, the Williams Lake Stampede will not have a rodeo queen. But organizers hope the competition comes back, slightly modernized for the 21st century. 7:09

With Files from Andrew Kurjata and Daybreak North

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