The Cloverdale Rodeo’s new format was a bucking success as fans turned up in droves to the 62nd annual event.
More than 80,000 people took part in the four-day country fair — compared to about 50,000 last year — leaving organizers “ecstatic.”
“It’s been an extremely positive rodeo,” said Gerry Spielmacher, Cloverdale Rodeo and Exhibition president. “The fans have been sold on the new format. Crowds in the stands have been to capacity.”
More than 20,000 people showed up for the rodeo portion of the fair, a significant improvement over the 17,500 spectators it attracted last year.
For years, animal rights activists criticized the rodeo. After a calf died last year organizers announced they were dropping the number of events to four from seven. The more controversial events like steer wrestling were eliminated.
Organizers also limited the field for competitors, inviting only the top 24 riders in North America to take part in the saddle bronc, bareback, bull riding and ladies barrel racing modalities.
To keep the top cowboys and cowgirls motivated, the prize money was doubled to $360,000, making Cloverdale the second largest rodeo payout in Canada behind the Calgary Stampede and No. 5 in North America.
Saddle bronc rider Isaac Diaz of Davie, Fla., said Cloverdale’s bucking stock and hospitality are unmatched.
“It’s a really, really good rodeo. It’s got a lot of money and good horses,” Diaz said.
Kanin Asay of Powell, Wy., said he was grateful to accept the invitation and he likes the new format.
“It’s more money in less time,” Asay said.
Laura Balance, spokesperson for the rodeo, said the altered format was a success and organizers will continue to build on it.
“We weren’t sure if it was going to work — this weekend proves the format works,” Balance said. “We are going to look back in a decade and see that a little rodeo from Cloverdale, B.C., led the pack.”