For almost half a century the Rimbey rodeo has been an exciting, action-packed event, giving local and out-of-town cowboys and cowgirls a chance to step into the limelight and show off their talent in front of an admiring crowd.
Despite a solid background of hardworking folks who keep the rodeo alive year after year, some things have changed since that first rodeo was held in 1966.
‘Back in the day’, Rimbey was the destination of choice for professional chuckwagon drivers, and they came in droves, their numbers even exceeding that of the Calgary Stampede.
But that was ‘back in the day.’
According to the history book, Over the Years, one year at the Rimbey Rodeo even more wagons ran here than in Calgary.
Jack Everden, former secretary of the Rimbey Exhibition Association, confirmed that statement. “When we had race meets here, everybody just came with their wagons. We had a huge number of wagons here in Rimbey.”
However, it turned out that the days of the professional chuckwagon races were numbered and Everden said, “it got too expensive” to bring them in.
The history book states the first rodeo was held 10 years after the Rimbey Exhibition Association held its organizational meeting in 1956. Prior to the first rodeo, held in May 1965, meetings were held with Tom Dorchester and Jack Daines.
The original board of directors was Spen Muddle, Frank Watt, Tom Mellis, Ken Smithson, Sid Butler, Lawrence Calkins, Neville Roper and Vergil Stevens.
The first rodeo was a little britches rodeo held in conjunction with professional chuckwagon racing and flat races.
The Rimbey rodeo drew contestants from as far as Manitoba and British Columba and, the history book states it was the largest little britches rodeo in Alberta.
The little britches rodeo became a thing of the past in 1980 when the board of directors decided to go with an amateur rodeo. The professional chuckwagon races were replaced with pony chuckwagons at that time.
The rodeo began thanks to a group of hardworking people who wanted to see it happen, said Hazel Street, treasurer and promotions director of the Rimbey Exhibition Association.
Hardworking people and dedicated volunteers is still what keeps the rodeo alive, she noted.
“We have gone big, gone little and gone big and gone little over and over again, but throughout the years our board just keeps working hard. Sponsors and businesses continue to stand behind us year after year so it all works.”
This year close to 200 entrants took part in the rodeo; 38 bull riders, six bareback riders, 10 saddle bronc contestants and 80 barrel racers.
The miniature pony chucks were also part of the action.
Rimbey Exhibition Association board members are Sandi Taylor, president, Vykki Johns, vice president, Gloria Christianson, Hazel Street, secretary and promotions, Ken Dennis and Steven Boyce, grounds managers, Cory Lawes, rodeo manager and Billie Littau, rodeo helper and April McLean, cabaret manager and public relations and Jessica Husband, queens’ manager.