Tickets have gone on sale for the inaugural Valley West Stampede in Langley, the first professional rodeo created and hosted in the Lower Mainland township.
The Labour Day weekend event, sanctioned by the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association, includes four main events: bareback riding, ladies’ barrel racing, saddle bronc riding, and bull riding.
“All the animals that are used in this rodeo are all bred specifically for these events,” Valley West Stampede president Sheila Hicks told Global News.
“So it’s super exciting, they’re the best of the best and that’s what’s going to make this rodeo really stand out.”
There are no roping events at the rodeo, but Hicks said there will be mutton busting — sheep riding — for children. The rodeo is held in partnership with the Langley Riders Society, which organized the local Little Britches Rodeos for more than 50 years.
Winners of the main events will receive prizes of $20,000 each.
“It’s about entertainment, of course, it’s about getting together, it’s about unity, but it’s also about caring about the animals,” said event vice-president James Delorme at a Wednesday press conference.
“It’s about us being together to do a good thing.”
The event has drawn criticism from the Vancouver Humane Society. The organization has said it’s concerned the rodeo is a “major step backward for animals” that is not “in the public interest.”
“A recent poll shows that 64 per cent of British Columbians are opposed to the use of animals in rodeo, and in fact, there’s been a recent shift away from inhumane rodeo events in B.C.,” Vancouver Humane Society communications director Chantelle Archambault told Global News in April.
“The truth is that rodeos are fundamentally at odds with how we should be treating animals. These events cause unnecessary fear and suffering to animals for the sake of entertainment, they put animals at risk of injury, which may require euthanasia.”
The BC SPCA has acknowledged the “most dangerous roping and wrestling events” are not included in the new rodeo, but the four main events can still cause “pain and distress.”
“Saddle bronc, bareback and bull riding are bucking events where a rider attempts to stay on a bucking horse or bull for eight seconds,” said BC SPCA manager Melissa Speirs in a June statement.
“To encourage the horse or bull to buck, a flank strap is placed around the hindquarters of the animal, applying pressure to their sensitive underbelly. The rider’s score also increases the more they incite bucking by using their metal boot spurs on the animal.”
Bucking is natural behaviour for the animals, Speirs added, but at rodeos, it is “a forced behaviour rooted in discomfort and distress, not in play.”
The Valley West Stampede website lists competition, entertainment, safety and community values under its name, but does not elaborate on safety measures.
According to Hicks, event organizers are preparing to host 2,000 spectators per day between Sept. 3 and 5. Tickets are $25 for per day adults and $10 for children 12 and under.
The event will include a demonstration from local First Nations, live music, food trucks, a separately-ticketed charity dinner, and more.