The Grist Mill grounds were turned into the Wild West when it hosted the Cawston Primary School’s Western Day on May 21.
The day’s big highlight was the surprise wedding of Rodeo Rex to his bride Tatum Tyrannosaurus.
Rex is well-known to the students as a fierce competitor in the annual hobby horse barrel racing competition but has recently decided to retire, and was therefore inducted into the World Council of Hobby Horse Barrel Racing’s Hall of Fame, just before his wedding ceremony.
“In a regular year, before COVID-19, the Keremeos Elk’s Rodeo happens on the Victoria Day long weekend and the school has a long-standing tradition of hosting their ‘Western Day’ assembly as a lead-in to that fun weekend,” said Chris Mathieson, operator of the Grist Mill and Gardens Historic Site. “Unfortunately, the rodeo couldn’t go ahead again this year due to pandemic restrictions, but we found a great way to adapt and make the assembly happen for the kids.”
Working closely with teachers Mike Lucich and Kelsey Oskam, plans were made to host all four cohorts from the school on the large lawn in front of the site’s historic waterwheel-powered flour mill.
Each group was kept an appropriate distance apart while still being able to enjoy all the activity of the two-hour event that is normally held in the school’s gym.
Festivities included a welcome from school principal Shannon Miller, a traditional Okanagan song by Indigenous educator Mr. Louis, a maypole dance featuring the Grade 1 and 2 students, several choreographed line dances and more.
The final event was the 22nd annual Cawston School Hobby Horse Barrel Race, featuring four enthusiastic competitors:
“Flyin’ Flynn” (representing the school’s support staff), Cadence “The Prancing Princess” Periera (the highest-ranking student representative), “Very Glam” Oskam (representing teachers) and “Breakaway” Brody Yamamoto, a high school student and alumni of Cawston Primary who earned his spot by participating in the special online edition of the Barrel Race competition in 2020.
The competition was fierce, but “Breakaway” Brody handily beat out the competition, setting a new record of under 11 seconds for the entire course.
“This wonderful event happened because of the creativity of a lot of people,” said Mathieson. “The staff and students at the school really embraced the change in venue, our own Grist Mill volunteer group pitched in to help and community members like RDOS Area B representative George Bush contributed by loaning us the all-important hay bales to help decorate for the event.”
The Grist Mill previously hosted local schools as an alternative classroom space, and Mathieson is excited for the future potential in the partnership that has arisen out of the hardship of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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