The 2018 North Thompson Fall Fair and BCRA Polaris Championship Finals Rodeo competitors and crew with many wearing pink in support of breast cancer awareness day at the rodeo.(Rona Macdonald Photography)

A walk down memory lane with Rodeo at the North Thompson Fall Fair

BCRA Polaris Championship Rodeo Finals in Barriere, B.C., Aug. 31 - Sept. 2, 2019

  • Aug. 14, 2019 12:00 a.m.

The North Thompson Fall Fair and Rodeo Association (NTFFRA) is celebrating it’s 70th birthday this year, and say they “are pulling out all of the stops” to make this a memorable event for all of their visitors over the Labour Day weekend Aug. 31 – Sept.2, 2019, in Barriere, B.C.

A lot of history has been created in the North Thompson Valley over the past 70 years, and in regards to the NTFFRA there is plenty; and very much so in regards to the sport of rodeo. This is especially not worthy in 2019 as it will be the second year in a row that the NTFFRA has hosted the three day BCRA Polaris Provincial Championship Rodeo Finals.

Back in 1973, the first rodeo arena at the NTFFRA fairgrounds in Barriere was built by a group of enthusiastic Barriere Secondary School students and their parents under the guidance of agriculture teacher Jack Wood. As a result, the local High School Rodeo Club was able to hold their first rodeo in the arena that year, and Gus Gottfriedson supplied the rodeo stock. For many years after Ted Vayro was the familiar face who brought the stock, and you could also find him behind the chutes making sure the contestants were down on their animals and ready to nod for their gate.

Dick Ross organized the first North Thompson Fall Fair Rodeo which took place in that arena, in 1973. It was a Junior Rodeo for the first couple of years, with rodeo horses coming from Laurie Walkem of Spences Bridge, and cattle from Barriere area rancher Charlie Fennell.

Ross then brought the Interior Rodeo Association to the North Thompson Fall Fair, and in 1975 Joe Bardget Sr. became the rough stock contractor, with his daughter Cathy and son-in-law Danny Corr eventually stepping into his shoes.

H&S Rodeo’s Eric Heinman and Clarence Schneider, from Keremeos, became the rough stock contractor for 1984 to 1986. Then in 1987 the Bardgets returned to Barriere (Double J Rodeo – Joey Bardget and his partner Kim Kerr), continuing behind the chutes for many years until work other than stock contracting took them away from traveling the BCRA (British Columbia Rodeo Association) circuit. At that time Davey Bardget stepped up and remained the NTFFRA contractor until the end of the 2006 rodeo season, and then from 2007 until the Fall of 2012, WWE Rodeo Stock was the rough stock contractor for the North Thompson Fall Fair.

Ross manged the annual North Thompson Fall Fair’s rodeo for a total of 39 years. After he passed in February of 2013, his beloved wife and rodeo co-chairman Carmen Ross took over the reins – which she still holds today.

In 2013, Dale DeJonckheere and his partner Barbie McDonnell (DnB Rodeo) became the contractors through 2017.

In 2018, when the BCRA Polaris Championship Provincial Finals were held in Barriere for the first time, all of the stock contractors were chosen by the contestants. Three rough stock contractors were chosen; S & E Rodeo, C+ Rodeo, and DnB Rodeo.

The rodeo announcer for 30 of the 35 North Thompson Fall Fair Rodeo’s to date has been Jay Savage from Cranbrook, B.C., and he will be back in the rodeo announcer’s booth this year as well.

2018 was the first year that the NTFFR held a rodeo on the Friday before the annual Fall Fair. This was a Wildcard Rodeo – also a first for contestants, and was hosted by the BCRA and Great West Equipment. This additional day of rodeo created tremendous feedback from the contestants, and it is being repeated again this year. This rodeo provides the opportunity for one contestant (who is not already in the BCRA Year End Top Ten) from each Wildcard Rodeo event to earn a spot into the three day BCRA Polaris Championship Provincial Finals starting the next day.

Thanks to the vision of so many NTFFRA members back in 1973, the sport of rodeo has grown from a grass roots start to the Provincial Finals now being held along with the annual North Thompson Fall Fair which is now in its 70th year.

Today, the NTFFRA rodeo is managed by NTFFRA Director and Rodeo Chairman, Carmen Ross, who previously served 34 years as the Co-Chair beside husband Dick who was the Chairman. She is on the front line from the day the entry catalogues go out in the spring, until the final sponsor banners are taken down and the planning and budgeting for next year’s event begins.

NTFFRA Director Brian Sabyan, and wife Wendy, have also been a part of the NTFFRA rodeo crew since it’s inception, and are dedicated members of the NTFFRA rodeo committee. Just a few of the jobs they take on are looking after the arena area and fences, spending long and countless hours preparing the arena footing, preparing the grounds, setting up the stock pens, making sure the animals are cared for, harrowing, and trouble shooting – always making sure the annual event runs smoothly in all areas.

“Brian and Wendy are such an integral part of the success of this rodeo,” says rodeo chair Carmen Ross, “Then there are the volunteers that continuously come back year after year on Labour Day weekend to help produce this rodeo – it would be impossible to carry on without them.”

Ross says that the hosting of the BCRA Provincial Finals in 2018 put her “over the moon” about how well it all came together. “To see the crowds, and the contestants and their families having such a wonderful time was a true testament to the vision of someday hosting the BCRA Finals in conjunction with the North Thompson Fall Fair.”

Check out the North Thompson Fall Fair and Rodeo Association at:, or on Facebook: North Thompson Fall Fair and Rodeo Association.

To find out more about British Columbia Rodeo Association at:

Source: North Thompson Fall Fair and Rodeo Association, and the BCRA (British Columbia Rodeo Association).

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