It may not be who you think, but a Bentley celebrity is getting readied for a long ride south.
He weighs in at about 2,850 pounds, stands six feet tall at the shoulders, and is still growing.
Wild West Willie, a friendly eight-year-old cross-bred Brahma/Holstein/Angus steer owned by Doug Rogers and his family of Bentley, was extended one of about only 20 personal invitations to participate in the prestigious Rose Bowl Parade Jan. 1 so his owners are keeping him in shape.
Most hopeful participants in the famed Rose Bowl Parade in California have to apply and are screened, but after the chairman of the Rose Parade committee saw Willie in the Calgary Stampede parade two years ago, he wanted to extend an invitation for Willie to come to California, so tracked him down by contacting the Calgary Stampede committee, which in turn checked with Rogers first before letting out their contact information.
Before you know it, owner Rogers got a phone call direct from California asking if he would consider appearing in the 2011 parade with Willie.
“I didn’t believe it at first,” said Rogers. “You are who? You are calling from where?” he queried over the phone, asking a number of times considering it might be a hoax. But it turned out it wasn’t.
Wild West Willie will appear in the 122 Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif. There are only three classes for this parade: floral floats by corporations or community organizations, marching bands, and equestrian units.
“Willie is classed in the equestrian section as there was no other place to put him,” Rogers laughs. Wild West Willie is listed as being combined with the Kern County Sheriffs Mounted Posse.
“He was put in miscellaneous at Calgary because they had no class for Willie there either.”
A stipulation is that everything is to be decorated with natural flowers. A banner has been planned to hang across Willie’s back and it will feature a red maple leaf, explained Rogers.
Doug Rogers and his wife, Kimorie, accompanied by Harvey Brink and his wife, Coby, set out with Willie in the early morning hours of Dec, 26, and Rogers expects it to take “two days and a bit” to drive there. They were expected to arrive Dec. 28 to check in. They will be staying at the 75-acre Los Angeles Equestrian Center where there are various types of stalls, indoor and outdoor arenas, riding rings, pavilions, parking, and more.
The equestrian category will assemble on a freeway at 7 a.m. in preparation for the parade. The other classes meet in other areas and all are melded together when the parade starts out. While there the Rogers’ will live on site in their stock trailer that has living quarters in the front, and the Brinks in another trailer being supplied there so they can be near Willie.
“There are a lot of curious people out there,” says Rogers who wants to make sure his prize possession is not startled. “The committee has been very good. They have been checking with us to make sure the stall they have will be big enough for Willie to be comfortable.”
Brink has ridden with Rogers in the past, is a past 4-H leader and understands livestock, and Rogers is confident in Brink’s ability to help out along the way and to look after Willie while Rogers does the necessary interviews and appearances they were told to expect on Dec. 29. They will pack along hay and feed pellets for travelling and will buy some more feed there. Until then, Willie needs to be kept in shape both mentally and physically.
The Rose Parade is a 2½-hour, six-mile long parade in the dead of Canada’s winter. The next longest parade Willie has appeared in was the two-hour, four-mile long Calgary parade in the middle of summer.
All the necessary paperwork is in place, including a certificate of health dated Dec. 10 that is only good for one month, so Rogers had to time it so as to make sure they are covered, and blood work and Canadian tattooing and an ear tag will be in place. The border authorities and all state veterinarians have been contacted, they know Willie will be passing through, and have no problems with that. It was not as tough getting Willie through as Rogers thought it might be as Willie is not breeding stock and is not going for slaughter or end up for sale. When he purchased Wild West Willie from Tim Edwards of Vanscoy, Sask. in 2004, Willie was trained to ride, drive, and bow down.
“I used to ride bulls and decided it would be different to have a friendly one as a pet,” he said, explaining his decision to buy Willie. “I haven’t driven him as I haven’t been able to find a harness that will fit.”
But it doesn’t bother Willie to sport a saddle with an extra big girth and a rider.
“Willie is a calm, quiet, well-mannered fellow,” says Rogers. There is a great trust between Willie and his master. “He will follow me anywhere if he knows you are not going to hurt him and if you give him time to look around first.”
Willie has also been in the Ponoka Stampede parade, the Ponoka Stampede Rodeo Challenge for handicapped children, the Lacombe Daze Parade, and in August of 2005 and 2010 Daniel, Doug’s son, rode Wild West Willie in the Bentley Parade, accompanied by Doug.
Rogers sometimes gets sponsorship to help out with expenses. This time, with the venture bigger, distant, and more costly, some local organizations and individuals are helping out with some of the expenses.
Watch for our local Canadian bovine celebrity, Wild West Willie sporting a maple leaf in the prestigious parade on Jan. 1. “It will be quite the experience both for Willie and us (his caregivers),” notes Rogers, who is getting more excited each day.