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The Williams Lake Stampede

The Williams Lake Stampede is one of Canada's top rodeos, and is the only British Columbia rodeo on the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association circuit. Begun in the 1920s, the Stampede has grown into a 4-day festival held over the July 1 long weekend. Rodeo cowboys from across Canada and the western United States gather here to compete for prizes in excess of C$80,000.

What makes the Stampede so popular is that in addition to the usual rodeo events -- barrel racing, bareback and saddle bronc riding, calf roping, bull riding -- there are a number of unusual competitions that provide lots of laughs and action. The Ranch Challenge pits real working cowboys from area ranches in a pouch-passing pony express race, a hilarious wild cow-milking contest, and a cattle-penning contest. There are also chariot races with two-horse teams and a chuck-wagon race with four-horse teams. In a variation on British sheepdog trials, the Top Dog Competition pits a cowboy and his ranch dog against three unruly cows. The dog puts the cows through a course of barrels, then into a pen; the fastest dog wins.

Other Old West events, such as barn dances, a parade, midway rides, and grandstand entertainment, add to the fun. Because the Stampede is very popular, accommodations go fast -- make plans well ahead.

For more information, contact the Williams Lake Stampede, P.O. Box 4076, Williams Lake, BC V2G 2V2 (tel. 250/392-6585; www.williamslakestampede.com). All reserved seats cost C$17; general seating is C$15 adults and C$10 seniors and children under 12.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.